The adverb "now" is the latest tic for vocabulary-challenged TV news anchors. "Now" has been in the English language for the last eight centuries, coming originally from nunc, its Latin equivalent. But one questions whether it's ever been more used and misused.
Have you heard reporters say: "Now, the latest update from Baghdad." Or, "Now, I'm in Times Square, and the police are right behind me." "Our 'Live From' segment starts right now." "News across America now." "Now an incredible rescue caught on tape."
These examples personify "Right Now" news. Everywhere one hears: "One person has been shot . . . we'll keep on top of this for you. . . . Now, more news from around the world."
"Now, now, now" is journalistic patois that paints a present-tense pointillism of the news. By oversupplying "now," TV news editors intend to make a story seen from a distance appear to be blending together, just happening, right in front of the viewers' eyes. Sometimes this is true, sometimes it isn't.
If the news reader has an incomplete picture of the story, the tag line "We'll continue to follow it for you, as always," is never far away. It makes up for reality being behind the news.
News editors live or die by being up-to-date. If what you're hearing isn't taking place at the present moment, then it falls into the category of "buzz-buzz," old news. The latest is always "just in," "right now," really "new" news. Watch and listen to any of the networks or local news programs. Count the "nows."
Perhaps some of the history for trying to be "up to the moment" can be put to John Dean, President Nixon's lawyer, who used the phrase "at that point in time" while testifying before Congress some 35 years ago, inadvertently opening up pointillist reporting. It is another example of trying to make language impute precision, where there may in fact be very little or none.
Today, "now journalism" is a reflex of Americans' insatiable, immediate appetite for everything in a quick hurry, a New York minute. Many Americans seem unable to wait for anything, whether it's the latest headline, a big burger right now, instant credit right now, or a big SUV; they want it right now.
This behavior can have a major impact on one's emotional life, to say nothing of the country's psyche. A while ago, an advertisement featured Cistercian monks fiddling with their vow of silence by using instant messaging to comment about sports events via the Internet.
Perhaps restraint and self-control, floating somewhere in the American ether, are getting ready to make a comeback. Now, that's something I can't wait for.
Michael D. Langan is a retired Treasury enforcement official.