An article in the most recent issue of Vanity Fair tells the tale of college students in Kentucky who stole rare manuscripts from a university library. It’s a well-researched and well-written yarn. (It’s not available on the magazine’s Web site, but you can get the gist here.)
Unfortunately, the magazine refers to the four perpetrators as “boys.” All four were 18 or older at the time of the heist. In 2006, broadcast media did the same thing in the Duke lacrosse case, describing the players, since exonerated, as “the boys.” In such situations, the appropriate word would be “men.”
Just when do boys become men for purposes of news stories? The AP Stylebook offers this guidance under the “boy” entry:
Applicable until 18th birthday is reached. Use “man” or “young man” afterward.
The use of “boys” isn’t accurate when talking about the actions of young adults, and it casts a tone of “boys will be boys.”
Related post here.