The words of your trade

Every profession has a language unique to it — words and phrases and even symbols that are unique to it.

Musicians have terms like staccato and use notes as the currency to make up the body of their work.

In baseball, you speak of RBI’s.

Maybe I’m bias, but I love the language of journalism and publishing.

I’m writing this because something funny happened surrounding the language of journalism today to me — twice as a matter of fact — and it struck me that I often forget not everyone speaks this language.

My mother often makes up words I have to translate for friends who don’t understand that something like a “who-fest” is her term for a party.

The running joke is that only my very close friends “speak Judy” (my mother’s name).

Today, in the grocery store picking up milk, I realized I forgot to grab more coffee and darted out of line quickly, telling the cashier “Hang on, Coffee is TK.”

When I returned with my coffee, she had this puzzled look on her face and told me she had no idea what I meant by “TK.” I laughed and asked her “you mean you don’t speak copyrighter?”

So, just for fun, here’s a list of some of my favorite sayings and marks unique to journalism — because it donned on me many of you speak “runner” (as in, while you may giggle when I use the word fartlek, you know what I am referring to at least).

Let’s start with TK, shall we?

TK: Stands for “To come” as in “rest of this story TK” (the K is used instead of the C because very few words use the T and K next to each other and so it looks wrong to your brain, however, a C is easier for your brain to gloss over. The K stops you.)

Bulldog: The early edition of a newspaper (since most newspapers have several editions)

Cutline: (sounds painful, doesn’t it?) It’s the caption underneath a photo.

News hole: the amount of space available in a newspaper for the next day (as opposed to ads)

Put to bed (or closing): when the final work on the pages of an edition is done it and complete

Slug: The working name of the story (usually made up of a topic word and date) many publications have their own formulas for how story slugs should be written

Spike: As a reporter, you NEVER want your story to get spiked or killed. This comes from the days when editors would actually place your typed pages on an actual spike

Budget: The daily or weekly plan for what people are working on for the next edition

There are many, many, many more — but those are my favorites.



4 thoughts on “The words of your trade

  1. I work in finance, and the jargon here is thick, but I’ve recently found a new one that is working well for me. I now have a “hard stop” on certain days when I have to leave early. Just saying “I need to leave at noon” was not enough for people to respect my time. But I pull out the “hard stop at noon” and they’re doing what they can to get me out the door at 11:30. It’s pretty amazing.


  2. One of the things I definitely enjoy about working with startups are the words of the trade. My favorite, so far, is “glomad” – a person who’s never at their home country but always feels “at home” wherever they go 🙂


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