Saturday, August 20, 2005

A "rewild" idea

Questionable word: "rewilding"
Citation: among other publications, Live Science, "Lions, Camels and Elephants, Oh My!" by Robert Roy Britt.
Usage: describes the possible practice of reintroducing wildlife present more than 10,000 years ago into the U.S. Great Plains and Southwest; recently recommended by scientists at Cornell University.
Recommendation: instead use "reintroduction" or "repatriation"
Rationale: why give an old concept a new name when the old names work fine?

Why is there this desire to make up words? Why does "rewilding" better describe "reintroduction" or even "wildlife repatriation"? At least if scientists and journalists used these terms to describe the practice, people could look up the term(s) in a dictionary. Rewilding isn't in the dictionary -- yet.

Also try my blog on clichés at http://www.e-messenger-consulting.com/latest/.

2 Comments:

Blogger wordsworth said...

I invited author Robert Roy Britt to read and respond to this posting. He kindly wrote back saying, "I made a decision long ago to refrain from interjecting myself into discussions about my writing, other than being interviewed... That said, I'd be happy to offer the following to you, a moderator, which you could quote me on (and post) if you like:"

In writing the article, I initially planned to leave the term "rewilding" out of the story. I write for lay readers, and I always strive to keep technical terms out of my stories when practical.

Anyway, it's an awkward-looking word that I found hard to read -- our eyes are trained to read words we know without actually looking at each letter, but I had to slow down to read this word. Further, I don't yet have a lot of confidence that it will enter our common vocabulary.

But as I researched and wrote, I found the scientists using it
frequently, and that presents a problem of omitting a word from a quote [and putting an alternative in brackets] or paraphrasing. It's
important for readers to hear direct quotes when possible.

Ultimately, I decided readers might enjoy seeing the word for the first time, since its uniqueness parallels that of the idea. And as a journalist, it's not really my place to decide what new scientific terms end up in the dictionary. That decided, I put the word in quotations for first usage, and mentioned that it was the scientists' preferred term.

A final note: The scientific paper on this topic in Nature uses a
hyphen: "re-wilding." But our style guideline is to use a hyphen in such a case only if one "e" is followed by another, as in re-educate.

cheers,
Rob

9:51 AM, August 22, 2005  
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