Did the New York Times Actually Ban the Word "Tweet"?

Earlier today, Choire Sicha at The Awl reported that the New York Times had banned the word "Tweet" -- as in, what you do on Twitter when you use it -- from their newspaper in a memo sent out to editorial staffers. It got around the internet pretty quickly. And Yet: Times ArtsBeat blogger Dave Itzkoff refuted this via Twitter, noting that it was "not true." So is it or is it not banned?

New York Times standards editor Phil Corbett spoke with Michael Calderone at Yahoo after The Awl dropped their piece. What'd he have to say for his memo?

"I think it wouldn't really be right to say the word's banned," Corbett told Yahoo! News after the Awl's post quickly bounced around the Twitterverse. Corbett said that in straight news stories, "tweet" should be avoided except in special cases. As for banning, Corbett said he doesn't actually have the power to issue such decrees. "I can't even convince people to use 'who' and 'whom' correctly," he said. "It's guidance," he said. "It's trying to put people on alert that, in my humble opinion, 'tweet' is a word that hasn't become ... dictionary-level standard English."

Well, that sounds reasonable. Except Sicha went in the comments of his post to address Itzkoff's beef:

For the record, Times employee (and longtime blog hater-on-er!) Dave Itzkoff just TWEETED (ha) that this is "not true," which he says is par for the course of what he expects on "the Internet." (http://twitter.com/ditzkoff/status/15847765293)

We're not clear exactly what part he finds not "true"-yes, our friend in Standards agrees that "tweet" may be used at the paper for "special effect"-but when you write for the paper, and the powers that be issue a memo like this, it is actually a ban. (Ban: "to prohibit, forbid, or bar; interdict.")

It's also worth noting that this memo was sent around with the direction "Bloggers: Please note this guidance from Phil Corbett..."

(Guidance! "the act or function of guiding; leadership; direction.")

So we are giving Dave a confused Scooby-Doo "baroo" look.

Emphasis mine! After Corbett's admission that he can not, in fact, put the editorial smack down on those who choose to employ "Tweet" in their writing, it does not appear to be a technical ban. But: when you get a "guidance" from your boss, it typically means "do this or risk being given guff over it," which may or may not open the door to further employer-employee relationship issues, after which: who knows. So is it categorically banned? Well, yeah, if not at least now stigmatized by the Times. Every time you use the word "Tweet," now, just remember: the New York Times thinks you're doing it wrong. More importantly: Who will be the first New York Times writer to break the (categorical, kinda) ban on "Tweet"?! Seeing as how he's been on a bit of a rock star roll lately, Paul Krugman, we're counting on you, here.

[fkamer@villagevoice.com]

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