David Bowie db.list at PMPKN.NET
Tue Nov 30 06:22:32 UTC 2010

From:    Ronald Butters<ronbutters at AOL.COM>

> I feel certain that CABLE has had the jargon meaning 'confidential
> international communications between government agencies' for a very
> long time. On the one hand, this is jargon. However, it is also
> fairly widely used by the press and others. One would expect an
> unabridged dictionary might show the distinction. I suspect this is
> one of the many cases in which nobody thought to update the
> dictionary entry in response to subtle shifts in technology
> (subreption).

I can attest to 'cable' having that meaning in regular use among
nonspecialists (it would come up in local news stories about spy cases,
for example) while i was growing up in the DC area in the 70s and 80s,
by which time the cablegram-specificness of it was already outdated.
Given its longstanding use by nonspecialists, though, we may need some
sort of intermediate label for something like this that lies somewhere
between jargon and non-jargon.

David Bowie

The American Dialect Society -

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