Mike Preston's report card in Week 3
The Baltimore Sun

Objet rechauffe

The "Speak English, please" posting, which suggested that the term objet naif in a newspaper story was a little recherche, even de trop, drew a quick reply from a reader.

"’Naif’ appears in standard English dictionaries as a variant of naive and can thus hardly be considered ‘baffling.’ People with limited vocabularies should consult a dictionary instead of expecting everyone else to dumb down their prose."

Don’t expect a volte-face from this quarter anytime soon. The article in question, in addition to using an obscure term, delayed for six paragraphs the information that the objet in question was a piece of pottery made by a child.

Journalism aims for clarity, not obscurity. The aim of the newspaper headline is to attract the reader’s attention in a coup d’oeil. The aim of the newspaper article is to present a subject in language as widely understood as possible. Achieving a succes d’estime with newspaper writing requires more than a bricolage of terms and details that are likely to be unfamiliar, sans explanation or adequate context, to a significant number of potential readers.

If your limited vocabulary drives you to a dictionary, you should find the italicized Gallicisms therein, treated as having been naturalized in English. Whether that means that they are good choices for a general-circulation newspaper is a question of judgment.

Honi soit qui mal y pense.

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