Word of the Week! Embedded

Nail in boardI recently discovered this word, associated with “embedded journalists” during the Afghan and Iraqi wars, used for writing centers. No, we are not battlefields except for ideas and stylistic choices. Yet when we assign a Writing Consultant to a specific class, that employee gets called, at some other centers, “an embedded tutor.”

Seeking clarity for the first use of “embedded” in this sense, I tried The OED, but the dictionary only describes an item fixed inside another, with usage going back to the early 19th Century. Our final arbiter of definitions remains silent about the word, as modern metaphor.

Oxford Reference helps with etymology, giving a date of 2002 for a Pentagon strategy regarding reporters in war zones. Ostensibly the use of reporters attached to a military unit could have protected the non-combatants, yet as Oxford Reference’s entry notes, seconding what I have read in other accounts, at times the act of embedding resulted in journalistic bias, favoring the military or a particular operation.

As this blog does not directly concern itself with journalistic ethics or military affairs, I leave it for the reader to decide. Yet when we make a person part of a team, in an academic sense, can we likewise expect a completely unbiased result? I suspect that reasoning underlies the ex officio status of senior administrators on many academic committees. They step into discussions only when needed.

Where have you encountered our word?

Nominate a word students need to learn by e-mailing me (jessid -at- richmond -dot- edu) or leaving a comment below.

See all of our Metaphors of the Month here and Words of the Week here.

Image courtesy of Craig Duas at Flickr