Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What is a Word Nanny?

The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Federal Communications Commission's right to fine television networks for, "the unplanned, fleeting use of a curse word on live television," has been a hot topic in the news this past week. Many news outlets have pointed out the fact that the real issue here is whether or not the FCC policy violates the 1st Amendment. What I want to point out is the compound word used by the Chicago Tribune to describe the FCC's behavior - word nanny.

Following is an excerpt from an article titled "Word Nannies" that appeared on May 2nd's

"A change at the five-member FCC is a more likely resolution. The agency is set for a major overhaul with three new commissioners coming on board. We urge them to avoid being word nannies."

What a great word; and from what I can tell it has not been used prior to this article. A Google search for "word nanny" returns numerous hits about the word "nanny;" a Google search for "word nannies" returns the original Chicago Tribune article, references to the article from other news outlets, and forum discussions about The Supreme Court's decision.

So...what is a word nanny?

If a nanny is a woman whose job is looking after young children, then by extension a word nanny is a woman whose job is looking after the words that young children hear.

When it comes to word forms, we all know that "nanny" is the feminine and "manny" is the masculine, but because FCC commissioners can be male or female, the Chicago Tribune's use of the term "word nanny" is neuter.


Kathleen said...

Wow! I'm going to have to ponder this one!

Erin Davis said...

Word nanny is indeed a great term.

Anonymous said...

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