At the Ref Desk (7/11/20): After 6 hrs of chat-reference, I got out of the house and hiked north on Broadway all the way from Diversey to Howard. Nice evening. (Took the bus home.) [more...]

ListServ is a ListServ is a ListServ

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 8/8/10 (3:03pm)

ChicagoReader Logo I'm not sure why Michael Miner, who writes for the ChicagoReader on the local press scene, decided to dredge up the brouhaha over the recently closed-down listServ JournoList. I mean, it's been all over teh Internets™ for weeks now and doesn't really seem to have much to do with Chicago.

Nevertheless, I immensely appreciated Miner's shameless use of the word 'listServ' in such sentences as:

The Daily Caller exposé of the JournoList listserv [emphasis added] was a parody of a modern major newspaper investigation....

Miner then proceeds to quote fellow journalist Chris Hayes who -- sacré bleu! -- also uses the term.

Then what should I come upon but a post by James Fallows in the Atlantic (no less) where he commits the same crime, using 'listServ' four times! Unfortunately in this case, the language pedants must have gotten to Fallows since he quickly follows up with an apology saying he didn't realize the term was 'trade-marked'.

My reaction was, here you have three extremely articulate language professionals using this word in precisely the way most people understand it -- and yet one of them has to apologize because it's trade-marked by some company that neither they nor probably the rest of the English-speaking world has ever heard of.

Does this make sense? By the same reasoning, 'scotch-tape' should only be used when referring to products from the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company.

In any case, Fallows later emailed me saying his apology was only partly serious (which reading between the lines of his post you could kind of tell).