Patrick Pexton, the Washington Post’s ombudsman, blogged about criticism of columnist Allan Sloan’s (also Fortune’s senior editor at large) use of “mega-fatties” instead of the word “obese” in his April 14 column about Medicare reform and the health care law.
Sloan writes for the Post about economics, and according to Pexton puts “into plain English a lot of the business jargon you see every day.” However, Sloan’s substituting “obese” with “mega-fatties” drew criticism from readers of lack of professionalism and sensitivity.
Sloan defended his column: “I used ‘mega-fatties’ instead of ‘morbidly obese’ for the same reason I use ‘junk mortgages’ rather than ‘subprime mortgages,’ and ‘printing money’ rather than ‘quantitative easing:’ My writing style is to translate jargon into understandable English. If I had to do it again I’d write it the same way.”
Pexton reported that the Post’s business editor, Greg Schneider, would have cut the “mega-fatties” use, “but the column got lost in an editing shuffle.”
While Pexton commented that he likes “colorful and clear writing to dull and turgid,” obese was a better fit for the column than “mega-fatties.”