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I Think This is the Wrong Word

July 28th, 2008 by Troy Goodfellow · 5 Comments · Industry, Media

People who know me know that I love words and language. I’m not one of those people who gets all uptight about the misuse of the word “ironic” or who loves archaisms, but I do mourn the transition of meaning for “begging the question” and I read Fowler’s English Usage for fun.

When Variety uses the word “maven” to describe their list of influential people in the gaming business, a little piece of me dies. A maven is someone who is an expert on something, who has a deep, wide-ranging knowledge and appreciation of a topic and who seeks to pass that knowledge on to a wider public. The word gained currency from William Safire’s language column in the New York Times in which he would explain the origins, meanings and distinctions between words; he dubbed himself a language maven and, no matter what you think of his politics, the man knows words.

So in what universe is anti-violent game crusader Leland Yee a gaming maven? You could even quibble about whether many of the designers on that list are mavens, since their expertise is in performance not passing knowledge onto others; I mean you wouldn’t call Bruce Springsteen a rock and roll maven would you? Is Michael Crichton a literary maven? And how is a film director a “vidgame maven”?

Variety seems to equate maven-ness with influence and that’s not necessarily wrong; a maven with no influence or potential to effect change isn’t much of a maven. But knowledge comes first, and nowhere do the articles convincingly communicate maven stature.

And don’t get me started on “vidgame”.


5 Comments so far ↓

  • Justin Fletcher

    But doesn’t this beg the question of whether Variety writers know enough about the gaming industry to properly identify “mavens” in the first place?

  • Thomas

    They hired a maven maven, obviously.

    Got their money’s worth, too, it sounds like.

  • Troy

    “But doesn’t this beg the question…”

    Why I oughta…

  • Justin Fletcher

    What can I say? The reason I’m amusing is because I’m so funny.

  • Alan Au

    I always thought that mavens were some weird cross between an aesthete and a fanboy. According to Variety, they’re neither. How ironic.