Our Influence on Language: “Podcast” is now a word

This story today announces that the word “podcast” has made it into the New Oxford American Dictionary 2006. Originally coined as a combo of ‘ipod’ and ‘broadcast’ the word has spread into popular culture and beyond. My extended family now knows what a podcast is. My children know. Their friends know. The widespread popularity has legitimized the word and the practice and it’s no longer some geeky 1337 thing.

Here is an example of how quicky we’ve created new language. The word apparently came up for inclusion last year but was rejected as too obscure. One year later it’s all over the place. Why can’t we do that with “Ms.” or “equal pay”?

Either they’re still taboo because the politics turn people’s mouths bad and they won’t say them (shame on you!) or there’s no merchandise to drive people’s consumption motive. Our culture is based on consumerism – buy – own – get – have – neeeeeeed – and there’s something about saying “podcast” or “ipod” or “mp3 player” that shows you’re on the in. That you belong. That you know what’s cool, trendy, hot, funky, curly, hip, happenin’, (insert adjective here) etc.

Does feminism need a gimmick?


No Responses, Leave a Reply
  1. Sara
    08 December 2005, 5:56 pm

    I think you’re trying to make a comparison here where it’s not valid. “Equal pay” is a word for a concept we’re familiar with. Ditto “Ms.” They’re words that exist and everyone knows, they just might not be interested in using them in conversation for whatever reason (the reasons with regard to these words are usually bad). “Podcast” is a new term people are using because they need a term for what a podcast is. If podcasts were something people were touchy about, you bet people would avoid talking about them and using the term “podcast.” If “equal pay” were something more people were concerned about, the term would be used more. If you changed its meaning to something that is not controversial but fun and useful, then it would be used a lot more.

  2. Administrator
    08 December 2005, 7:38 pm

    Not the greatest comparison, granted, but still, words that didn’t catch on as ‘podcast’ has. You’re right – it is controversial and there’s nothing fun about not receiving equal pay for equal work. It hasn’t always been a familiar concept and I wished more people would talk about it. I’m so glad you called me on it and we’re here doing that. 🙂

    ‘Ms.’ isn’t that old either and once again the politics surrounding its use keep it from being used more.

    Who is it that makes a word popular? I see a connection between who has power (i.e. $$$), and what words are ‘successful’. Consider the price of an ipod: is there any elitist component to owning one? I think there’s more to it than just describing a new entity. I think we also have to consider where this entity is coming from, who is using it, and who stands to gain from its popularity.

Leave a Reply:

Name *

Mail (hidden) *