Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Lower Third

For my word of the week: a term for something with which every news-savvy person knows but for which they likely lack a smartypants, make-your-friends-feel-dumb term:
chyron (KAI-ron) — noun: an electronically generated caption superimposed on a television or cinema screen.
Essentially, a chryon is the floating bit of text that tells you the name of whoever is on MSNBC or Fox News or CNN or whatever and why they’re talking on the given subject. Think a boldly colored background, drop-shadowed white text and a euphemism such as “party strategist” or “local man” or “teen abstinence advocate.”

I’m guessing this term chyron also includes the dreaded ticker — that horrible thing that reduces lesser news stories to a Twitter feed with a lesser character count — and anything else that happens to appear in the lower third of a news channel screen.

Mythology buffs might attempt to connect chryon with the similarly named centaur/tutor who managed to repress his lusty urges and educated a who’s-who of ancient Greek heroes. I can’t say that this association is wrong, exactly, and it would make a lot of sense, given the term’s informational associations Chiron’s tendency toward explanation. But I’m not sure the centaur gave rise to the word, because it’s generally assumed that the term came from the Chyron Corporation, which has since 1966 supplied TV broadcasts with supplemental, digital doodads that have allowed viewers to know what the hell is happening. Thus, it’s one of those brands-turned-generic terms, like Kleenex and Q-Tip. However, as near as I can tell, it’s the only word we have for this particular element of TV culture.

Previous words of the week after the jump.
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