Despite Newsweek’s valiant try to reinvent itself, I have pretty much given up on US newsmagazines. Time is as slouchy as ever, and US News and World Report had a few moments in the sun, but is basically now a series of buyers guides for colleges, health insurance plans and, I don’t know, didn’t they devote a whole issue to selecting Gerbil food? Bottom line, they are comic books.
As a result, I now read The Economist for a good summary of the news. But in their editorial section they often refer to themselves as a newspaper. Excuse me, glossy printing, same size as a magazine, permanently bound at the fold, you are a magazine! Is this just some British thing like misspelling colour? Economizing minds want to know!
At this stage, I suspect it’s a matter of bloody-mindedness and contrariness for them to continue to insist on the term “newspaper.” I bet they grin like devils and hoot themselves silly whenever someone tries to tell them they’re not one.
This is dependent on a definition of “newspaper” that is not the one that comes to mind for most speakers of English. “Newspaper” is generally used to mean not only the function of a publication but also its format.
The basic fact of the matter is that The Economist is applying a definition of “newspaper” that is not commonly understood by the public. It might be fair to label The Economist’s usage as idiosyncratic. What is unfair is to pretend that there’s nothing going on here and people like the OP are “confused.”
The Economist is of course free to adhere to its chosen usage of the word “newspaper,” but it’s disingenuous to pretend that this isn’t idiosyncratic, or contrarian, or even elitist perhaps.
They started out in the traditional newspaper layout and changed to a glossy page presentation somewhere along the way, but the basics of sort the content being delivered was still the same.
So. Is the dictionary definition of “newspaper” correct? Is a publication a newspaper by virtue of its content or its physical form? When you access information from the NYT on-line, are you still reading a newspaper? In fact do newspapers’ on-line editions even meet the dictionary definition anymore as they are continually updated rather than “issued at regular and usually close intervals”?
Yes, we’re all aware of the common usage of the word “newspaper”. But when one has noticed an unexpected usage of a word, it’s easy enough to look up the word in the dictionary to see what the less well-known definitions are. And, in this case, one would find that “newspaper” can refer to the content of a publication rather than its format.
The Economist is simply using that definition. It’s neither idiosyncratic, contrarian, nor elitist to use a standard dictionary definition of a word. If I label a reader “confused” about it, it is because I’m am being too polite to call out their lack of knowledge of the word.
It’s also perfectly legitimate to wonder why an otherwise seemingly mainstream publication would cling to applying a definition that has become so marginal that it commonly causes confusion. Just because a definition still appears in the dictionary doesn’t rule out idiosyncrasy, contrariness, or elitism, or pretentiousness even, just in case the other three don’t already cover that. There’s really no good reason for The Economist to keep calling itself a “newspaper,” regardless of what might have been the facts on the ground lo those many years it first used such terminology.
Don’t take this to mean that I believe they should stop doing it. I just think it’s important to acknowledge that there’s no good reason for it.
There is no good reason to stop using it. And there is a good reason to use it: it fits with the character of the publication. Not too mainstream. A little idiosyncratic, a bit of mild humor, an appeal to those who are a little bit contrarian and/or intellectually elitist. Certainly not having any compunction to think a certain way just because that is the conventional wisdom of the time. Why do you think so many Dopers subscribe?
Again, if you read a “newspaper”'s on-line edition should you refrain from saying you read a newspaper? If a newspaper gives up its paper edition and goes all on-line should they no longer call themselves a newspaper? Some are giving up paper editions; I suspect they too will keep calling themselves newspapers anyway if the sort of content stays mostly the same.
I don’t have a problem with them referring to themselves as a newspaper, but I think it’s pointless for others to do the same. Without qualifiers, a newspaper is printed on newsprint. You may have an online newspaper or a newspaper magazine or whatever other forms you want.
You should not continue using an archaic definition unless it is clear what you mean. Otherwise you are just insisting on using language to confuse people That’s not elitism: that’s plain old asshattery.
And that’s supposed to mean what? Do you not know that while some dictionaries list sense by frequency of use, others list senses by the dates in which they emerged? I can’t tell which dictionary was use for the Dictionary.com entry for newspaper. That makes it impossible to know how the listings are arranged without more information.
That’s in addition to the basic issue that dictionaries are horrible, next to useless, for nuances of infrequent usages. You shouldn’t be referring to a dictionary for an answer to this question in the first place.
They are apparently using Merriam-Webster. True, my “Shorter Oxford English” adds in a folded unstapled paper bit. And the on-line Macmillan, even set for the British version, also states “a set of large printed sheets of folded paper containing news, articles, and other information, usually published every day” as one of two definitions, the other being the organization that publishes such things.
I can accept an argument that there are other dictionaries that define it otherwise, or even that the dictionary definition does not capture the accurate meaning in a particular case (which may be the case as usages change, as may be the case with “newspaper”, but as noted already, more to the side of calling the same content a newspaper even if it is delivered on your Kindle, or online, which would support their usage, not argue against it), but to argue that it is incorrect to refer to a dictionary for a cite about whether or not a word is being used in a manner appropriate to its meaning? That is just goofy.
BTW, I have not not heard of dictionaries that list their numbered usages according to the dates they emerged. Can you enlighten me with a … yeah yeah … cite please? Even the OED keeps its etymology separate from its usage.