A Little Rant About Language

As someone who edited a magazine for four years, allow me to digress with a brief rant about language. I have two pet peeves.

First, “digital” is an adjective. As in “digital video” or “digital audio” or “digital acquisition” or even “digital divide.” It is not a noun — it modifies a noun. So, for example, it would be incorrect to say something like, “we’re going to shoot it on digital,” (how many times have you heard that?) or, “that was before I started editing on digital.” On digital WHAT? There’s a word missing — the noun.

Second, and more important for us, “editor” is a human being, not a machine. I am getting very tired of the recent trend of calling an editing system, a piece of software, an editor. We don’t call Microsoft Word a “writer,” even though it would be quicker and easier to use that word, and we don’t call Quark Xpress a “desktop publisher.” We never called our Moviolas and KEMS editors, either.

There is simply no logic for this usage — no good reason to confuse two totally different things by giving them the same name. It’s totally disrespectful and frankly, it’s just plain wrong. The machine does not edit — it allows a human being to edit. The hammer doesn’t build the house — and we don’t call it a carpenter, either.

We need to find another word for the device that allows people to edit. And for want of something better, maybe we should stick with the term that worked just fine for the first decade and a half of the digital revolution — “editing application.”

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8 Comments on “A Little Rant About Language”

  1. bscenefilms Says:

    With regard to digital, I think that the English language evolves. I think that as culture changes, the language MUST evolve to reflect those changes and better facilitate communication. I think that the phrase “We are going to shoot it on digital.” will be a tough one to fight. I think its inevitable. But I could be wrong :)

  2. Luke Pebler Says:

    Sadly, RED is also an adjective, so “Shooting on RED” will be no better for you, Steve. ;)

    On the same tip, I was always puzzled that “Avid” became a singular noun itself. As in “The new Avid’s really running well”. (Particularly when “avid” is an adjective!) Curious…

    Anyhoo, I’m off to edit digital on my Final Cut Pro.

  3. GroovyBrent Says:

    Instead of “editing application,” we use “NLE” pretty regularly.

  4. Steve Says:

    Yea, I guess I’m okay with “NLE” — to the extent that it’s become a standalone word, separated from what the letters stand for — non-linear EDITOR.

    But, I don’t think this is an academic, pointy-headed grammar discussion. When the word you use for your livelihood is artificially applied to a machine, that inevitably devalues what you do. The switch has been driven primarily by the manufacturers, and it should be challenged.

  5. Cynthia Says:

    To add to that… an upright moviola and a flatbed are both NLEs. Perhaps they should call FCP and AVIDs digital file NLEs. And I think I’ll just start calling myself a digital splicer. Or is that cutter?

  6. Loren Says:

    Call ’em what they are: CRAFT TOOLS.

  7. snailsnail Says:

    I’m afraid you scupper your own arguments early on with:
    ‘how many times have you heard that?’
    What’s used in language is what’s correct, so there’s no ‘just plain wrong’ about it.
    Good luck trying to change usage though :)

  8. Judge Says:

    I like calling the editing software “Avid.” Much in the same way that facial tissue has been called Kleenex. “NLE” doesnt roll off the tongue as easily.


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