Do you remember solons?
When I was a kid, it seemed I was always running across newspaper headlines that said things like "Solons slated to meet."
It should have been enough to discourage me from venturing forth into the "grownup" sections of the paper. I should have stuck with the comics and the box scores. (If a newspaper is like a city, the comics and the sports pages are like the immigrant neighborhoods, where newcomers establish a toehold.)
I suspect I wasn't the only one who didn't get "solons."
Eventually I found out that Solon was the statesman and lawgiver who gave the Athenians their constitution. And lowercased generic "solon" is a highfalutin way of saying "legislator."
But – here's the clincher – it's a five-letter word for "legislator," and one of the letters is "l," which takes almost no space at all. That made "solon" beloved in newsrooms where time and space were tight. "Slated," of course, was a six-letter synonym for "scheduled." Who could resist, even if nobody was writing on slate anymore, even back then? (Nowadays, "Slate" is the name of a hip online journal.)
"Solons slated to meet" was a bit of vintage headlinese that probably topped a story on a meeting of something like the budget committee of the state legislature, or maybe an important session of a congressional committee in Washington. It sounds rather quaint in part because newspapers don't run play-by-play stories like that anymore.
But I've been thinking about "solons" lately, because it's useful to remember that the time and space pressures that we see squeezing the language today are older than your cellphone or your BlackBerry.
... the article continues, but that's it for ClassCon