A word a day in a different way


While there’s plenty to write about writering and writing and being a writer and alphabets and the wonders of typeface design and how no one really ever truly understands a writer except maybe another writer, I’m not going to write about any of that today.

Instead, I am going to share something that is newish, über cool, and ALL about words; specifically, words used in the media. It’s a site called NewsWordy and if you don’t already know about it, here’s how Very Short List describes it: “Newswordy plucks a word a day out of the news cycles, defines it, and examines its use (and misuse) in the media. Language nuts and news junkies will love it.

The media is a catch-all term, but for our purposes, I’ll mess with a simple definition that says it’s “communications channels that distribute news, entertainment, data, etc.” I think this is a case where the meaning and the function of the word has gotten away from the definition, but more about that another time. The media happens to be full of writers of all sorts: journalists, columnists, reporters. Over the years, a good number of media types moved into PR and communications and helped to evolve to higher and higher levels that whole branch of pseudo-language known as corporatespeak.

Media literacy is crucial today, since there’s more media, more people writing, and a public that’s not inclined to think deeply about what the media is presenting, including the words that the media use. Those words are often quite deliberate, on message and insidious. Words create a frame for seeing and thinking in the same way that a camera viewfinder does. (See Chomsky and media concision, but ignore Chomsky’s premise on the origin of language).

While the media aspect of the site is interesting, it’s the word part that’s the real gem.

The entire site is elegant. The design is easy, the type is perfect and UI (user interface) of it brilliant and simple. My thought at first seeing it was what a great writing prompt site, if not for the word, then for the colour — no offence to people who do not see colours. And the archive of words are presented in BIG, BOLD, and BEAUTIFUL sans serif type. <swoon> Okay, so my slight modernist style bias is showing, but it is gorgeous.

Oh, and it’s designed by a Canadian. (Go Canada!!)

Now, it’s true that words often drift away from their original meaning, at least in English, the language where the words sick, murder, killed have evolved on certain colloquial streets and music cultures to be used as words of praise. It’s not clear how Newswordy will manage that, but it’s always good to level set the understanding, and ask, is this what they mean when they used that word?


About FS

Toronto, Canada. Writing about slices of life, the moments and minor details of which come into awareness or out of imagination and the spaces inbetween.
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4 Responses to A word a day in a different way

  1. elmediat says:

    Good post. Your example of the word media and what it means is an excellent example of words drifting. Actually it is a contraction, Most times the word media or “The Media” is used to mean “news media”. More accurately media refers to mass media in all of its forms ( see my resources if interested). One of the challenges I face as a secondary school media literacy teacher is getting other staff to realize that when most people talk about literacy they mean “printed text literacy”. So the word literacy is contracted in the same manner as media. Thanks for the information and the link.

    • fs says:

      Thank you. You’re absolutely right. I wonder if the concept of Mass Media has — in a way — lost some its context in the day-to-day word given its ubiquitous nature in our culture. THANK YOU about the inherent printed word/text bias within K-12 notions of literacy. You’d think that teachers would recognize different forms of literacy… media literacy, information literacy, visual/design literacy, etc., that people can use to navigate their world and make informed choices and decisions. Um….I didn’t get any of your resource links, but would love to have them. And do keep up the good work: I for one think that media literacy is crucial.

  2. Kate McCausland says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I love sites like this. Gave a few of my friends a link to it as well. Also, the intro to this post is excellent. I chuckled out loud in the cafe and got a few stares.

    • fs says:

      There is nothing wrong with chuckling out loud: we need more moments of chuckling and enjoyment in the world. And I hope your friends enjoy the site: it is one of the better ones.

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