"report" 'someone reporting to a manager'

Fri May 29 19:58:42 UTC 2009

        Google Books seems to have several examples from the 1970s in
personnel management texts and trade publications.  There are the usual
difficulties with dating, etc., so I don't bother reproducing them here.

        In the 1980s, we start to see mainstream business news sources
using this meaning.  The earliest I see is in an advertising supplement
in Forbes, 11/21/1983:  "I have been able to eliminate unnecessary
meetings and telephone tag with my direct reports. I simply send
electronic mail messages to several people at once and receive instant
answers throughout the work day."

        It appears in edited text (as opposed to an advertising
supplement) in American Banker, 7/30/1984:  "You'll be a better manager
if you instill this confidence and offer of assistance with your own
direct reports."  (American Banker technically is a trade publication,
for banking, but it's a mainstream business news source in that it is
not particularly focused on personnel/human resources.)

        I first see it in a general newspaper (albeit in the business
section) in the Chicago Tribune, 3/24/1986:  "Make these simple
questions the first element in your formal appraisal system: 'What have
you changed? How much have you changed? What are you planning to change
next? What are your direct reports changing?'"

        I don't see much extended use for other relationships.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
Of Arnold Zwicky
Sent: Friday, May 29, 2009 2:14 PM
Subject: Re: "report" 'someone reporting to a manager'

On May 28, 2009, at 5:23 PM, John Baker wrote:

>        I'm sure that "report" in this sense is older than the
> mid-1980s, perhaps quite a bit older, but in any case going back at
> least to the 1970s.  It's just that it wasn't until the
> mid-to-late-1980s that there began to be widespread use in the popular

> press, which probably reflects widespread use in business
> environments.

what sort of use in the popular press?  let me explain.

this noun "report" seems pretty much confined to manager/managee and
supervisor/supervisee relationships, and picks out a very specific piece
of this scene, based on who reports to whom (this verb "report"
is surely the source of the noun -- the noun is a nouning -- and so is
older, maybe considerably older, than the noun).

call the two participants the ER and the EE; the EE reports to the ER.
we can then use the noun "report" to refer to an EE (or to EEs) in NP
expressions like
   ER's report(s)
   a report (of ER's), reports (of ER's) ("NN is my report", "I have two

these usages began in business environments, where they are certainly
useful; in particular, it's useful to be able to refer to the EE
participant with a single word ("managee", "supervisee", "report").
so here's the question: when you say the word began to be widely used in
the popular press, do you mean that the popular press simply picked up
the word, used for a participant in a business relationship, instead of
referring to an EE with a phrase?  or do you mean that the use of the
word has been extended to other relationships?


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The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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