Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: thought leader.

thought leader. “Thought leader” (= a person or company with a reputation for innovation and success in a field) is a vogue word that has been around since the 1970s — e.g.: “To get the message across, Monsanto will aim its television advertising at people who write letters to editors and speak out on public issues. It will direct its magazine ads to ‘thought leaders’ through campaigns in the three national general newsweeklies and National Geographic.” Donald P. Burke, “Monsanto Speaks Out on Benefit/Risk,” Chemical Week, 26 Oct. 1977, at 5. Like many vogue words before and since, this one has suffered from its share of ridicule: — e.g.: “Each day certain economists and others warn us that the American economy is in serious trouble. . . . This caterwauling would be amusing except that so many of our politicos and supposed thought-leaders take this stuff seriously.” M.S. Forbes Jr., “Major Problem with the American Economy: Hypochondria,” Forbes, 9 Mar. 1987, at 33. A true “thought leader” would never think of using such a term any more than such clichés as “cutting edge” or “thinking outside the box.” For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “The word-lover is generally a mild man, but, like the animal-lover, he can be stung to action by any abuse of his pets.” Felicia Lamport, “Dictionaries: Our Language Right or Wrong” (1950), in Words, Words, Words About Dictionaries 64, 72 (Jack C. Gray ed., 1963).
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