Coinage of "Hypertext"

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Sat Jun 9 12:33:35 UTC 2001


Could the popular mind (which we know is not just a little unlike the
linguistic one) confuse "coinage" with "first written use"? In fact,
aren't they even abetted in this from time to time by etymologists
(who, of course, know better but are justifiably wary of nonprint


>In tomorrow's "On Language" column, William Safire contacts Ted Nelson,
>the coiner of the term "hypertext."  Nelson tells Safire that "the coinage
>was in an August 1965 paper by Nelson titled 'A File Structure for the
>Complex, the Changing and the Indeterminate.'"
>In fact, "hypertext" appeared earlier in 1965.  In the Vassar Miscellany
>News, 3 Feb. 1965, there was an article entitled "Prof. Nelson Talk
>Analyzes P.R.I.D.E."  This article includes the following passage:
>He introduced the concept of the hyper-text, which would be a more
>flexible, more generalized, non-linear presentation of material on a
>particular subject.  The educational possibilities in the use of the
>hyper-text are vast.
>Fred Shapiro
>Fred R. Shapiro                             Editor
>Associate Librarian for Public Services     YALE DICTIONARY OF QUOTATIONS
>   and Lecturer in Legal Research            Yale University Press,
>Yale Law School                             forthcoming
>e-mail: fred.shapiro at     

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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