Neologisms

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

On Sept. 9, 2007, William Safire began his weekly column, "On Language," with this lede: "When with-it users of language need a word to describe a suddenly increasing activity, we either create a new one — a neologism like blog, a borrowing like au courant — or we dust off a somewhat-related old word and give it a whole new meaning." Since Sept. 11, 2001, these "with-it users of language" — many of whom seem to be journalists and press secretaries — have added dozens of phrases to our everyday parlance, including "surge," "insurgents," "Islamofascism," and "rendition" (both extraordinary and regular). We can thank reporter Dana Priest, of The Washington Post, for adding the last term to our vernacular. In a series of articles, which won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for beat reporting, she wrote about secret "black site" prisons. Since those pieces were published, the term has turned up everywhere. There's even a film by the same name, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Reese Witherspoon, and Meryl Streep, in theaters now. But what does "rendition" really mean? What is its etymology? And how close is Rendition, the movie, to reality? Daniel Benjamin, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, joins us in the second hour, to talk about the "5 Myths About Rendition (and That New Movie)." Do you have questions about the word, or how it is used today?

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.