There are more ways than ever to get your daily dose of news, trending stories and information. And while the battle to save print media is ongoing, there will always be a place for good journalism, no matter where it’s consumed. But where did the words newspaper, magazine, and blog come from?
Newspaper is, of course, a compound word, made up of the words news and paper. The word appeared in print as early as the 1660s, although the concept of a newspaper is even older.
One interesting sidebar to the origin of newspapers is the word news itself. There have been several debunked theories over the years that news was an acronym for North-East-West-South or Notable Events, Sports and Weather.
In actuality, Middle English, all the way back in the 14th century, coined the term news as a plural version of something new. Curiously, this is one of the few times that an adjective turned into a noun by becoming plural. And why make it plural at all? One theory posits that the French nouveau in its plural feminine form of nouvelles caught on in English. Fast forward a couple of centuries and new things were printed on paper, hence the name coined for one of our earliest sources of journalism.
Magazines go by many names these days – periodicals, journals, ’zines, to name a few – but the name is derived from the Arabic makzin or makhazin, which itself is tied to the words makzan, for storehouse, and kazana, for store up. The Italians transformed makzin into magazzino, and the French changed that to magasin, and like so many other words, English adopted its own variation by the late 16th century.
The original meaning of magazine was very much in line with the Arabic definition of a storage space, primarily military ammunition.
Magazine was eventually applied to publications that provided a storehouse of information (instead of ammunition) that would appeal to a specific group of people – not unlike the topical magazines of today, from Glamour magazine for fashion to Wired magazine for techies.
Jump ahead a few centuries to 1998 and you’ve got the blog – AKA the people’s publishing platform. Blog is simply a shortened version of the term weblog. What is a weblog? It’s another compound word – web and log – coined to describe a regular record of things online.
What you may find surprising, however, is that blog did exist as a word before its current and most widely understood definition. Blog was previously used to describe a hypothetical person in the 1960s in the UK (Joe Bloggs is synonymous with Joe Blow). In the 19th century, blog was used to describe servant boys. Of course, these definitions have largely been forgotten, all in favor of this latest form of media to capture our attention with newsworthy content.