Columns » Words

Words, April 3

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“Amanda Congdon may have had a modern job title — she was a ‘videoblogger' for ABC News — but she has an old-fashioned conflict of interest. According to Ad Age (3/19/07), she had a sideline hosting a series of what she called ‘infotainmercials' for the website of the chemical company DuPont.”

I'd heard advertorial and infotainment used to describe the blending of advertising with news and entertainment, but I hadn't heard of infotainmercials. I find this whole trend disturbing.

Still more new and unattractive language:

“He welcomes their [popular historians'] work … as an antidote to the narrow and often heavily ideological history that comes out of the universities, more often than not in ‘the special language that literary critics now use to separate themselves from the power structure as well as the common herd of us ordinary readers: “interpellation,” “exfoliation,” “ambiguation,” “valorized,” “intellection,” “narrativized” and “meta” this and “meta” that.' ”

By reading popular history, I've managed to avoid most of these, but meta- is spilling over into other contexts. “The piece on lobbyists, he and his editor insist, was not just done to investigate the particular lobbying firms, but to reawaken journalists to the power of undercover reporting. ‘There was this meta level in the planning that asked, “How will the journalism establishment react?” ' Harper's editor Roger Hodge told a reporter.”

It's a prefix that means, according to Random House, “after, along with, beyond, among, behind.”

From The Word Detective, a column by Evan Morris about etymology and life:

“Why is it that you never run into people with the same last names as truly famous writers? Have you ever met a Poe? A Thackeray? Even a Mailer or a Vidal? Anyone out there know a Tiffany Yeats, a Larry Keats or a Billy Bob Longfellow? Am I the only one who finds this odd?”

He's probably heard from Brittany Coleridge by now, but let us note that many people in Little Rock have met a Poe — Fred, of the Poe Travel Agency. And his children, too.

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