“Long list”

“Long list” (or “longlist”) is list of potential nominees from which a  “shortlist” will be selected. It can be both a noun or a verb, e.g., “The novel was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.”

“Shortlist” came first–as early as the 1920s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary–with “long list” showing up in the 1980s. That’s when it showed up in Britain, that is: the first appearance I’m aware of in the U.S. was last year, when the body administering the National Book Awards instituted a ten-book longlist in each category, subsequently to be trimmed to five.

A measure of the term’s unfamiliarity here is the divergence in rendering it: in this Google search, you can see that Time and The New Yorker use “longlist” while NPR and Vulture use “long list.” The concept and the word will probably catch on, because the more nominees, the more interest can be stoked in a particular prize or award. If and when it does, the one-word form will become standard, as it is in Britain.

15 thoughts on ““Long list”

  1. Are “longlist” and “shortlist” portmanteaux? They strike me as examples of taking something old or common, altering it slightly (or not), applying it to a specific product, category, or situation, and revealing or declaring it new.

    This practice occurs frequently in language, but some may become aggravated when a corporation does it and attempts to trademark or copyright it. I’d love nothing better than to provide a “long list” for you, but perhaps a “short list” will do.

    Unfortunately for this purpose, most examples were trademarks first and still are (e.g., Dumpster®, Fiberglass® (Fiberglas™), and Realtor®), but some which weren’t include “apple” and “windows.”

    Rather than spend the rest of the afternoon on this, I’ve asked Wikipedia to create a new list of “English words or terms that have been trademarked or copyrighted.”

    Finally, “The color PINK is a registered trademark of Owens Corning.” Who knew?

  2. In some parts of Canada we have long used the long list in a human resources context as well as for prizes. You get a number of applicants for a position, you weed out those who clearly are not suitable, you give a written test to those on the resulting long list and then those who do best on the written test make the short list. It’s those on the short list that have an in person interview for the position.

    1. The proper first step, David Brent suggested, is to weed out unlucky people by taking half of the applications and dumping them straight in the bin unlooked-at.

  3. As a reader of newspapers and many an article about the Booker prize over the years, my gut reaction to this was that “longlist” is not standard (or at least not common in my experience) in the UK, though shortlist is. A quick search (not exhaustive I know) brought up a few recent newspaper articles using “long list” and one “long-listed” but no “longlist”, while Chambers doesn’t have long list or longlist; it does have shortlist (noun) and short-list (verb).

      1. I didn’t look at any of my own copies of Chambers but at Chambers online which I assume would the more up to date than any print edition. It responded that there were no entries for longlist. For long list, it responded that there were no exact matches but the following may be helpful.

        The item that may be helpful wasn’t what I’d call helpful but something nonetheless fascinating in itself which I’d never heard of: a long hundredweight and a short hundredweight. Long hundredweight is the standard British hundredweight of 112lbs (or 8st if you prefer) and a short hundredweight is apparently N American for a 100- pound hundredweight.

        It then gave a long piece on the definition of long.

    1. My experience is that Chambers online is less complete than the paper version. Which is odd, as their online word search facility – useful for crossword solving – has everything that is in the paper version plus names.

      1. Checked this online and the website says there is The Chambers Dictionary, and a shorter 21st Century Dictionary which is free online. I think that explains it.

    1. Did a search and the term shortweight and longweight ton also came up. It was used in coalmining where the coalminers brought up the coal in longweight tons and the mine owners paid for it in shortweight tons to take account of dirt in the coal; but…the owners could set the longweight ton to whatever they chose so it was sometimes 25cwt rather than 20cwt. Poor miners.

      A long way from the original topic of longlisting. Thanks, Chambers!

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