This morning on the BBC’s radio programme ‘Today’, the presenter James Naughtie apologetically used redact, calling it ‘that horrible modern word’.
Why does an experienced journalist like him speak in such a way? One thing redact most certainly isn’t is modern. The OED gives its earliest meaning as ‘To bring together in a single entity; to combine, unite’, and it is first attested in the fifteenth century.
What Naughtie was objecting to was its modern use to describe the blacking out of parts of a text for legal or security reasons, or, in the OED’s fourth definition, ‘To put (writing, text, etc.) in an appropriate form for publication; to edit.’ What’s wrong with that? What other word serves the purpose? Even that use isn’t particularly new. The OED’s earliest citation under this definition is from 1829.