The rise of the ‘hot take’
In the social-media-driven world of today, the ‘hot take’ is the bread and butter of online publications. Recently added to OxfordDictionaries.com, the word hot take refers to ‘a piece of commentary, typically produced quickly in response to a recent event, whose primary purpose is to attract attention’.
How ‘hot’ is the ‘hot take’?
Quite hot. The trend in the corpus we use to monitor new words shows steady and unmistakable growth in usage of the term since late 2013. The below is a graph drawn from that corpus data:
As you can see, the word has experienced tremendous growth in the past several months, providing our lexicographers with enough evidence to add it to OxfordDictionaries.com.
When did people first ‘do takes’?
The noun form of take has been in English since the 14th century, with a wide variety of different senses, so it’s no surprise that the entry for take in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is a particularly long one. It’s not easy to track the journalistic precedent for hot take, although one early sense – dating to the 19th century – refers to ‘a portion of copy taken at one time by a compositor for setting’.
Here’s an example from William John Gordon’s 1890 book Foundry, Forge and Factory for some context: ‘In the small hours of the morning … the last speech is coming in on relays of flimsy telegrams, and the compositors are working short ‘takes’ of half a dozen lines apiece.’ In this sense, a ‘take’ is essentially a short piece of text, though in the context or printing – not quite journalism.
Other later senses of take in the OED refer to the worlds of television, film, and theatre. One of those, dating to the early 20th century, refers to ‘a scene or sequence recorded in a single continuous period of filming.’ (You likely hear this use when people in the film industry talk about how many ‘takes’ it took to get a particular shot or scene.) Another sense of take refers to ‘an actor’s reaction or response to an action, statement, etc., typically manifested by a particular facial expression’. (The latter gave rise to the terms double-take and spit take.)
What about ‘giving takes’?
People have been offering ‘takes’, or ‘individual interpretations or assessments’ of one thing or another, since the 1970s.
It is this noun sense that gave direct rise to the ‘hot take’ of today. Hot take marries this sense of ‘take’ in a journalistic context with the word hot meaning ‘fresh or recent’ and ‘currently popular, fashionable, or in demand’.
It’s hard to pin down exactly how the term was popularized, although some have suggested that it emerged from sports journalism in the late 2000s. Regardless of its exact provenance, hot take owes much of its widespread popularity to the rise of social media and an Internet-savvy news media. Recently, the term has often been used to criticize content that is viewed as ‘clickbait’.