Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Thu Dec 23 06:19:10 UTC 2004

On Dec 22, 2004, at 11:52 AM, John Baker wrote:

>         It may be that the term began as a legal term, which in large
> part it continues to be.  It certainly predates the '70s.  Here's an
> early use from 1957:
>         <<Justice Bastow and I agree that feasible means should have
> been adopted to redact DeGennaro's confession and admissions,--before
> their introduction into evidence,--so as to restrict their contents to
> his own inculpations, and thus have avoided any possible prejudice to
> Lombard.>>
> People v. Lombard, 4 A.D.2d 666, 669 n.2, 168 N.Y.S.2d 419, 423 n.2
> (N.Y. App. Div. Dec 10, 1957).
>         Here's what the leading legal dictionary, Black's Law
> Dictionary (8th ed. 2004), has to say:
>         <<redaction (ri-dak-sh<<schwa>>n), n. 1. The careful editing
> of a document, esp. to remove confidential references or offensive
> material. [Cases: Criminal Law 663; Federal Civil Procedure 2011;
> Trial 39. C.J.S. Criminal Law §§ 1210-1211; Trial §§ 148-153.] 2. A
> revised or edited document. -- redactional, adj. -- redact, vb.>>
>         I don't think this is the same as censoring, although in some
> cases both terms might apply.  Here's what Black's says about censor:
>         <<censor (sen-s<<schwa>>r), vb. To officially inspect (esp. a
> book or film) and delete material considered offensive.>>

this definition of "censor" takes us pretty far afield.  the relevant
sort of censoring in our context is removal of material because of its
possible information value to outsiders (not because it is confidential
to the source or because it is offensive).  think censoring of wartime

it looks like "redact(ion)" started as a legal term with a specialized
meaning (in particular, editing to remove references confidential to
sources) and then extended its usage, still in legal contexts, to such
editing done for other purposes; the word then encroaches considerably
on "censor(ship)" in its restricting-information sense.

arnold (zwicky at

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