Merriam-Webster added 150 new words to its collegiate dictionary last week. Not surprisingly, many of the additions are tech-related, including the word selfie: “an image of oneself taken by oneself using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks.”
Of special interest here in The World’s digital department was the addition of the word paywall: “a system that prevents Internet users from accessing certain Web content without a paid subscription.” (See also: generator of intensely discourteous comments on The World’s Facebook page.)
Also last week, I spent a happy morning at Columbia Elementary School representing The World at the Wenatchee School District’s Fifth Grade Career Fair. On my table, which was situated next to the nice folks from Parsons Photography, I placed an Underwood typewriter that was used by World reporters in the 1920s and ’30s. Nearly half the students I spoke to couldn’t tell me what it was. A few reacted with complete, comical wonder, as though the machine were some dinosaur fossil dug up on Mars. Some seemed almost offended when I explained that without a delete button, a few typos often meant throwing out entire pages of work, or applying a white paint-like substance to the page.
One boy who did know the name of the strange, dusty contraption confessed to me the reason he recognized the typewriter: “I saw the Sherlock Holmes movies.” In a gymnasium chock full of local people with really cool jobs — surgeons, wildlife biologists, police officers, Walt the Wolf — and others shamelessly bribing students with swag, like candy and Frisbees (you know who you are, State Farm), my humble print journalism table was not an especially hot spot. In truth, many of the fifth-graders who did stop to chat about the newspaper business did so only to pass the time as they waited to have their pictures taken at the Parsons table.
One girl did seem genuinely interested in the newspaper and told me her career hopes include politics and writing. Poor kid. Looking back now, I can see that I was much too excited about her interests and so excessively forthcoming with advice and encouragement that by the end of her five minutes at my table, she probably thought I wanted to adopt her. She walked away in a daze.
I asked students what they want to be when they grow up. I heard from a lot of future architects and veterinarians, but by far the most popular profession was photography. I overheard at least 30 students tell the Parsons people that they like taking pictures.
They were most likely talking about selfies.