the meaning of REDACTED

Fri Sep 14 00:30:07 UTC 2007

I think it's relevant that "redact" has taken on the specific meaning of editing to remove identifying, privileged, or irrelevant information, and that that meaning now predominates.  If someone were using "redact" as a pedantic synonym for "edit," I would think at this point you would need some sort of context to show that the word is being used in an unusual sense.  See the discussion from 2004, summarized in Arnold's Language Log post at
John Baker


From: American Dialect Society on behalf of RonButters at AOL.COM
Sent: Thu 9/13/2007 6:43 PM
Subject: the meaning of REDACTED

Wikipedia says:

Redaction generally refers to the editing or blacking out of text in a
document, or to the result of such an effort. It is intended to allow the selective
disclosure of information in a document while keeping other parts of the
document secret. Typically the result is a document that is suitable for
publication, or for dissemination to others than the intended audience of the original
document. For example, when a document is subpoenaed in a court case,
information not specifically relevant to the case at hand is often redacted.

We all know that Wikipedia is not authoritative in the way that a dictionary
or real encyclopedia is. However, it generally gives a pretty good snapshot of
how words are generally construed, and a quick look at Google confirms that
REDACTION and REDACTED are rarely if ever used to mean 'edited by adding substa
ntial material'. All of the people who advertise penis augmentation are
promising the addition of substantial material. If anyone can find a
penis-enchancement ad that offers "redaction" I will be very surprised indeed.

I realize that Larry's original statement was intended as a joke, as was my
follow-up. Somebopdy who does not know how REDACTION is normally used in
American English could of course mistakenly interpret the American Heritage
Dictionary entry that Larry quoted as indicating that REDACTION includes significant
augmentation, and I assume that was the point of Larry's joke. For that matter,
even the word EDITED normally implies reduction rather than augmentation,
unless the context says otherwise.

In a message dated 9/13/07 6:01:41 PM, jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA writes:

> >e.g. that I distinguish between reduction and redaction?
> Except that in fedspeak, "redaction" is just a cute word for
> "deletion or obliteration," as far as I'm aware -- or does anyone
> know of examples of government redaction that involve actual addition
> or rephrasing of text?
> But of course there are normal, non-governmental people who can use
> "redaction" in the fuller sense. Evidently including the gentlemen
> who promise to |ncr34s3 Laurence's p3n|s s|z3...
> James Harbeck.
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