Whatever Happened to “Arrested”?
Does anyone remember when drug dealers were arrested and not “busted?” Or when a robbery mentioned on the evening news was a “robbery” and not a “heist?”
Slang, especially underworld slang, has its place, but its place is probably not in what is supposed to be the arena of objective reporting.
I grew up in a horse-racing town so I was familiar with the sight of men with promotional fliers in their hats, crowding the sidewalks in front of the track, accosting fans as they entered. These men were called “touts” and what they were doing was “touting” their picks for the day’s card. Now, when I hear a reporter say that the President is on the road “touting” his latest plan for the country, I can’t help thinking that the reporter wishes to imply that there is something shady about the plan being “touted.”
When I first heard about the newly-created office of “Drug Czar,” I was incredulous. To my mind, a “drug czar” denotes a drug trafficker, not a law enforcement official. Since then, I’ve heard the expression “education czar.” To me the connotation of “czar” is a negative one. According to what I’ve read, many generations of the Russian imperial family used the national revenues to collect art and build palaces while their people starved in shacks. I still feel that “czar” is not an appropriate designation for someone who is supposed to be working for the public good.
Mind you, all these words–busted, heist, czar, and tout–can be colorful additions to a writer’s vocabulary. The careful writer, however, will weigh the connotations of such words before using them to imply something that may not be intended.