Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Include me out

Something has been happening to the word 'include.' For reasons I don't understand, its meaning has begun to shift, or at least to widen. Up to now, if you prefaced some statement with the word 'include' or 'includes,' whatever came after it would be partial. For instance, if I began a sentence with the words 'The list includes...,' what followed would by definition be some of what was on the list, not all of it.

Like, 'The Beatles' line-up includes John Lennon and Paul McCartney.' If I said or wrote that, no one once would doubted that there were others in the line-up too.

Yet it is not uncommon now to read, as one could in the New Zealand Herald the other day, something like this:

The shortlist for the 2012 New Zealander of the Year includes Dame Suzie Moncrieff, visionary and founder of the World of Wearable Art Awards, Weta Workshop's Sir Richard Taylor and Dr Sharad Paul for his medical breakthrough in skin cancer treatment.

Reading this, I wondered who else had been shortlisted, and why only those three were mentioned. Then I found it that they were it: they're the whole list. In that case, why not just say 'The shortlist is...'? A curious and seemingly unnecessary shift in the meaning of a word has occurred.

1 comment:

Giovanni Tiso said...

I would say that in New Zealand, and especially in marketing/business related writings, this is now the primary meaning of "to include". It's been driving me up the wall for the last ten years, including 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.