“Human Readers” A Tautology?
When I read this comment by Richard Lee Van Der Voort, I had to laugh:
Here’s one for you. Tonight on the internet I read “human readers”. Is there any other kind? My dog is intelligent, but she cannot read.
Like Richard, I felt that to refer to “human readers” made as much sense as talking about “female women.”
After a web search I’m no longer laughing.
The expression human readers has become a retronym.
Thanks to technology, there are non-human readers out there.
A search for “human readers” brought up about 50,400 hits, most of them from the medical field:
Are human readers needed for prognostication from stress myocardial perfusion SPECT?
Sensitivity of CT Colonography for Nonpolypoid Colorectal Lesions Interpreted by Human Readers and With Computer-Aided Detection
80-year-old man with 15-mm-wide nonpolypoid tubular adenoma in sigmoid colon that was identified by human reader on blinded review but was not detected by computer-aided detection.
The internet, with its robots and spiders, is another rich source for the expression’s use:
Content Optimization Checklist for Human Readers and SEO
Discovering Equilibrium Connecting Human Readers and Internet Spiders
Good quality content is vital in a search engine optimization campaign. Not only will it help search engines to categorise your website and promote it in the rankings, it will also help to draw in human readers and will help promote your site through word of mouth.
I even found the expression on a religious site where it was used to distinguish human readers from divine (or divinely-inspired) writers of the Bible:
The evangelical claims of inerrancy and infallibility, likewise, offer no place for humans to stand, no place from which human readers could approach or understand their inhuman text.
I’m forced to concede that human readers has found a niche in the language.