We don’t seem to mind when words are created, but who decides when a word should be retired?

This week, the Associated Press decided that it would refrain from using the words homophobia and Islamophobia. What’s behind the change? Will this make a difference in our vocabulary?

Linguist Daniel Midgley investigates on this episode of Talk the Talk.


Listen to this episode

Or subscribe via iTunes
Click here for more options: How to listen to Talk the Talk


Show notes

The Associated Press Stylebook has nixed the word ‘homophobia’.
http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2012/11/ap-nixes-homophobia-ethnic-cleansing-150315.html

It’s sort of a style guide for writers and reporters.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AP_Stylebook

John Aravosis of AmericaBlog has some comments about homophobia and Islamophobia:
http://americablog.com/2012/11/ap-bans-the-word-homophobia.html

The word ‘Islamophobia’ has been around for a while.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamophobia#Etymology

Lots of words have other senses of meaning. ‘Chronic’ means ‘long-term’, but people use it to mean ‘really bad’.
http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=chronic

Helena from Morning Chorus points out that ‘phobia’ does not always mean ‘fear’.
http://morningchorus.tumblr.com/post/23292129861/i-hate-the-word-homophobia-its-not-a-phobia-youre

Someone once tried to use ‘homophobia’ to mean ‘fear of people’ or some such, but it didn’t take.
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=aeQYAAAAYAAJ&q=%22homophobia%22&dq=%22homophobia%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=5Ti9UI-mDofUmAX2vICwAg&redir_esc=y

No entry on ‘homophobia’ would be complete without a Google Ngram chart!
http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=homophobia&year_start=1960&year_end=2008&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=