Say what you mean, but learn to verb the web

Times email reference 001The school year started this week with the usual rush of frenetic energy and confusion. That set the stage perfectly for some of the things I was reading and hearing.

Beware of cyclonic language

I did a double-take when NPR said that a tropical storm was expected to “peter out” before it got to Japan. That was accurate, I suppose, but “peter out” seemed out of place in that news report. Then again, I’ve avoided the term ever since seeing the headline “Offensive peters out in the desert.” Thankfully, NPR said nothing about the storm’s being offensive.

An odd image

A New York Times story about the hacking of the Times website said that employees were urged to “take care in sending emails.” The explanation never went beyond that. The only other reference was an equally obscure quote from a Times official.

I envisioned my former colleagues wearing gloves and gas masks as they pressed the send button. Perhaps that’s why no one thought to ask, “What the heck does that mean?”

Verb this, not that

One of my teenage sons told me last night that he needed to “Wikipedia” a television show. I frowned and asked him when Wikipedia had become a verb. He rolled his eyes and told me that anything you did on the web was a verb When you look up something on Wikipedia, you “Wikipedia” it. When you want to find a video, you “YouTube” it.

I was dubious, but there is a certain logic. After all, “Google” and “Skype” have become accepted verbs. So why not “Wikipedia” and “YouTube”?

I wasn’t totally convinced, though. “So does that mean you ‘Yahoo’ things, too?” I asked.

Eyes rolled again. “Of course not, Dad,” my son said. “Only the things you actually use are verbs.”

I stand corrected.

Drought headline

A drought that can’t hold its water

Finally, there was this headline about the drought in Kansas. I sympathize with the headline writer. The idea was that parts of the state no longer qualified for official drought status but that water supplies were still low. I stared at the headline for the longest time, though, trying to decide when water wasn’t a concern during a drought. I considered trying to Wikipedia an answer, but I had spent so much energy taking care in sending email that day that I petered out before I could.

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