John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, and now at

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tapped out

In multiple articles you will see or will have seen that Judge Sonia Sotomayor has been tapped for the Supreme Court by President Obama. As a short verb, it is hard for headline writers to resist its use.

But I’ve always disliked the use of that word because of its association with fraternity initiations. Naming a Cabinet officer or federal judge ought to involve more dignity that being invited to join Rho Rho Rho.

Now — thank you, Bill Walsh, for your tweet crediting @edzaf — I have an additional reason to dislike this “unfortunate headline verb in reference to a female nominee, given the prevalent slang meaning.”

No prizes for guessing what that “prevalent slang meaning” is.


  1. I think "tapped" is overused in news stories, but I have never heard of its association with fraternity initiations

  2. Another tidbit: Where's the Baltimore Sun copy desk when you need it?

    From Alternet this morning:

    A google search for "Sotomayor" and "immigrant parents" brings up 10 pages of results (including over 2,000 news pieces like this one, from the Baltimore Sun, which describes Obama's pick to replace retiring Supreme Court justice David Souter as having been "raised in a Bronx, N.Y., housing project by her Puerto Rican immigrant parents...")

    Fun fact: Puerto Rico is part of the United States!