Breaking: New York Times Told to “Chill” on That “Hipster” Business


Today is a special, special day, for the New York Times, for hipsters, and for this here blog, Runnin’ Scared. Why? Because the New York Times‘ standards editor Phil Corbett put the smack down on Times writers using the word “hipster.”

Today, August 17, 2010, New York Times:

Our latest infatuation with “hipster” seems to go back several years, perhaps coinciding in part with the flourishing of more colloquial (and hipper) blogs on our Web site. In 1990 we used the word just 19 times. That number rose gradually to about 100 by 2000, then exploded to 250 or so uses a year from 2005 on.

Five Months Ago, March 16, 2010, The Village Voice:

Via Google Trends, it’s suggested that news references for hipsters peaked around May of last year and are creeping back after 2010’s first solid “hipster” spike on February 23, 2010. Google Trends from March 2010 to March 2009 exhibit a post-spike decrease and slow spike-rebounding gain in the use of the word “hipster.”

We had charts. Yes: Charts. Furthermore, from the Times:

  • 96 NYT pieces in the last year included references to both “hipster” and “Brooklyn.”
  • 87 NYT pieces in the last year included references to both “hipster” and “Manhattan.”
  • 33 NYT pieces in the last year included references to both “hipster” and “Queens.”
  • 2 NYT pieces in the last year included references to both “hipster” and “Staten Island” or “The Bronx.”

In the last year, NYT Standards editor Phil Corbett notes, “we’ve used it more than 250 times in the past year,” concluding:


In any case, hipster’s second life as hip slang seems to have lost its freshness. And with so many appearances, I’m not sure how precise a meaning it conveys. It may still be useful occasionally, but let’s look for alternatives and try to give it some rest.

And what’d we say in March?

The truth is that “hipster” — which once only mostly signified only a superficial engagement of certain consumer habits, like tight jeans, Pitchfork-approved bands, and maybe an enclave in whatever part of your town is being gentrified by the moneyed children of baby boomers — has been used so much, it’s now just an amorphous term for “young person doing interesting young person things, maybe even some of which could be considered ‘cool’ or groundbreaking in some way…Maybe now that the word has peaked, maybe if we say it enough, maybe if we just read better writing (or write better for our readers), it’ll go away. But probably not.

A Few Things to Note Here:

1. Hamilton Nolan at Gawker tried replacing “hipsters” with “Fauxhemians.” How well did that work? They used “hipster” twice yesterday. It was a noble effort, though.

2. We are not without our own “hipster” issues. Jen used it in a headline today. The first step is admitting there’s a problem.

3. Corbett recently told Yahoo’s Michael Calderone that the New York Times won’t be referring to the Cordoba Center as the “Ground Zero Mosque” because, well, it isn’t accurate. Mr. Corbett is clearly on a roll this summer. 2-0.

4. There is no stopping “Hipster” insofar as we can tell. Especially not at the Times. Remember when Corbett tried to more-or-less do away with “Tweet”? Look how well that turned out.

5. Rarely will we take the opportunity to do this. But when it arises, well, it happens. As such: WE TOLD YOU SO.