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shameless pleading






Don’t touch that dial.

Dear Word Detective: I was preparing a piece of work for my students recently. Their task was to create and record the words that a disc jockey would say between two pieces of music. To describe what a DJ would do at the start of a piece of music I naturally used used the word “introduce” but is there a word which accurately describes what a DJ might do at the end of a piece of music? Surely there must be a technical recording term for this. I’m considering claiming “outroduce” if there isn’t! — Tim Crapnell.

Ok. Good luck with that. Incidentally, are we talking about disk jockeys on radio, or DJs at parties, etc.? I hope it’s not the latter, because I’ve listened to a lot of radio DJs in my time (think Cousin Brucie and the immortal Murray the K on New York City radio in the 60s), but I’ve never been to a party that had a DJ. Shocking, I know.

If you’re in the mood to invent a word for what a DJ says after a piece of music is finished, I’d suggest “extroduce” rather than “outroduce.” Our English verb “introduce” comes from the Latin verb “introducere,” which combines the prefix “intro” (meaning “within”) with “ducere,” meaning “to lead or bring.” Our English “introduce” first appeared in the late 15th century, when it was used in the now-obsolete sense of “to bring a person into knowledge of something,” i.e., to teach. Subsequent senses of the verb have carried the general sense of “bringing a person or thing into a place or group or into a relation with a person or group,” as a person to whom you are “introduced” becomes a member of your circle of acquaintances. An “introduction” is the act of introducing someone or something to a group or place, even a group as vague as “things known and in use” (“The period immediately before the introduction of metal,” 1879), a first lesson in a subject or prefatory remarks in a book (“The Introduction to the Work, or Bill of Fare to the Feast,” Fielding, Tom Jones, 1749), or a formal presentation of one person to a group or another person (“Maria saw with delight and agitation the introduction of the man she loved to her father,” Jane Austen, 1814).

There are antonyms to “introduce,” but they tend to be a bit too broad for your intended use. “Finish,” “conclude,” “take away,” “erase” and “extract” would work in many contexts, but not when you’re presumably expecting your audience to have enjoyed the music and to want to stick around for the next piece. In radio jargon, doing a “front and back” is announcing the name of a piece or song both before and after it’s played, which sort of fits your description. Conversely, a short piece of music played between talk segments, as often is heard on NPR, is called a “bumper.”

Assuming that what you’re looking for is a name for the small bit of talking DJs do to lead listeners onto the next number, the most logical word, used in both radio and TV, is “segue” (pronounced “segway”). “Segue” was originally a technical musical term, derived from the Italian “seguire” (“to follow”), and means to proceed from one movement of a composition to the next without pause. As a musical term it first appeared in English in 1740, but it wasn’t until the early 1970’s that the word was first used in a broader figurative sense.

In music (and in film), “segue” has kept its original sense of “continue without pause.” But in radio and TV, a “segue” is a bit of speech intended to end one item and quickly introduce another. TV news programs, for instance, depend on segues delivered by the anchors, some of which are anything but smooth (“Those sure are cute kittens, Becky, but the cat’s out of the bag in a sex scandal at one local church….”).

2 comments to Introduce

  • Stephen Burke

    At least in British radio it’s called (rather clumsily) back-announcing. I always find it annoying when a DJ doesn’t do it, although at least with the web you can now usually find out what the song was.

  • J. Pastor

    The Bonzo Dog (Doo-Dah) Band had a song — well, not a song so much as a monologue backed by music — called “The Intro and The Outro” [] that pretty much captured what Tim was talking about.” It is, of course, on YouYube…

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