Shout out to the throwbacks…

Language is a funny thing. We use it everyday, and change and tweak it every day. It evolves and changes over time, sometimes slower than others and in different places more than others. In radio the language and turn of phrase used is pretty crucial of course- its all we have!

A friend, former colleague (and all round radio legend), Dave Brown posted something on his social media the other week which inspired me to think about language and choice of words. Dave asked about the use of language and the ensuing conversation was about the use of “shout out” and then “throwback“, which kind of got me thinking.

Just as an aside. Dave and I go back a long way. I was with Dave in Norwich on September 11th 2001 where I was visiting doing some internal consultancy in the GWR Group at the time and so spent that week together when the world changed. We met up again many years later at the Smooth network when Dave was doing weekend overnights as Smooth moved into Global and when I came into the team in Leicester Square. A total gent, decent, solid and dependable- a thoroughly good bloke. Dave is now on Boom Radio playing the music he loves and doing it brilliantly.

Right back to the point of the blog post.

The language you use on air, should reflect the audience you are trying to appeal to, whilst staying in touch with the world around you too to a certain extent. It would be weird for a station like Radio 1, KISS or Capital to refer to “shout outs” or mentions of people as “request and dedications”, which was the general terminology when I started out in radio back in the days of dinosaurs. That said, a station aiming at an older audience should ensure that its using the right terminology for its target audience and not trying to appear too young (or too old).

I’d probably argue that saying “w-w-w-dot” when talking about any URL is largely redundant for the bulk of the population now and whilst there are some older users who might not be fully on the same page, equally they are probably not totally unaware of a web address to make its lack of inclusion unfathomable for the most part. Slightly more borderline might be to say “you can go online”, rather than “you can go to our website”. The latter is more older leaning, but the use of just ‘online’ as a reference to web isn’t totally alien for most I’d wager.

Back to Dave’s question, and shout outs and throwbacks. There is a trend and a current vogue which comes to bear in language just as with anything else (fashion, home decor, design, music etc). Stephen Fry is well known for his use of language and even he comes down on the side of celebrating and enjoying the evolution. Now there is a programatic debate about whether a song is a “throwback” if its only 2 years old for example. I’d also argue that if it were a current CHR focussed station, where the oldest songs you play might be 2 years old, then the context might actually be fair game. After all if 99% of your output is from just the last few months (or weeks), then a 2 years is pretty ancient! Context is everything. Conversely if you don’t play anything current, then should the term ever be used at all? Surly everything is a throwback, and so the differentiation is unimportant. I remember talking with Dave and other presenters when at Smooth, (which didn’t play anything current), but importantly was not a ‘nostalgia’ station. It lived in the NOW, but just played a set of songs from a particular era and with a particular mood. There was a distinct move away from “a great song from when..”, or “I remember when that was…” type of link. Terminology and turn of phrase is vital and I’d argue that if the words “Oldie” or “Memory”, or “Flashback” were used instead it would seem really old or old fashioned in today’s world. It’s not that long ago that I recall Flashback being more commonly used, but the terminology and trend has changed and things have evolved as they should.

Its important to try and not get entrenched in a position when it comes to evolution of language and its use. The reality is that for everyone who might bemoan the latest linguistic trend and point out how its not a proper use of language or like it might have been “in their day”, in truth their day there were probably other trends and quirks which have since become either everyday language now, or died off and been forgotten about. For a programmer the important thing is to be true to your target audience, and reflect their natural use of language that fits the brand, vision and lifestyle… and try not to get snippy about the bits you might not personally like.

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Published by Dick Stone

Radio...its always been radio.

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