This month, the Republican war on all things “woke” impacted the scholarly communications world when the Nelson Memo, which is framed around improving equity, was one of the many policies targeted in the US House of Representatives appropriations bills. While politicians’ use of the word “woke” seems to have removed all of its context and it now seems an undefinable term meaning “things I don’t like”, the cringe factor of older, formal members of the establishment co-opting the slang of marginalized subcultures is undeniable. Which reminded me of the video below, where PBS’s always interesting “Otherwords” series took a look at how slang develops and how brands eventually ruin that slang. I hope you will join me in wincing as I describe this post as particularly fleek.

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.


3 Thoughts on "What is Slang and How Does it Die?"

Further proof that I am very, very old and reside in a land far away from the Kingdom of Cool.

That, like most of your Friday diversions, was fascinating. Her brief mention of eschewing slang and informal language in scholarly communication sent my mind wandering to how language evolves in science. I often pull up 100ish year old species life history papers and find them refreshingly plain spoken compared to the dense prose of recent literature. But I once heard a conference keynote talk given in rap, which was intended as a big FU to the corporate-funded suits and greybeards in attendance ( But generally the written language of science seems to hold fast against informality, except for the occasional clever titles with double meaning.

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