debaron at NTX1.CSO.UIUC.EDU
Thu Feb 10 17:06:12 UTC 2000
FYI from Foxnews:
To e or Not to e
1:06 p.m. ET (1806 GMT) February 8, 2000
By Lisa Meyer <<...>>
NEW YORK - It's just a letter: "e". But it signifies a revolution - in every
aspect of our economy and culture. It technically stands for "electronic,"
but now often means "online" or "on the Internet."
And with every economic or cultural revolution comes a change in language.
"E" (either capitalized or not) is the hottest prefix in the English
language right now, generating new word forms nearly every day.
E-shopping. E-rate. E-tailer. E-junkmail. The words are coming faster than
lexicographers can record. A number of these lexicographers are working for
the Oxford University Press and are surfing the Web, as well as combing
through books (both printed and electronic), newspapers, magazines, catalogs
and public documents. The lexicographers are gathering as many e-words as
they can for (did you guess?) an e-Oxford English Dictionary (OED) that will
appear for first time in March.
The e-OED, of course, will include more than just e-words. But the Internet
is the freshest and most fertile ground for new entries.
Despite the abundance of new e-words cropping up today, the initial one has
been around for some time. First noticed in the early 1980s, "e-mail" can be
used as a noun. As many already know, it is an electronic message sent over
the Internet. But now "e-mail" also can be a verb: "e-mailed" or
"e-mailing." People even say, "I'll 'e' it to you." (In the electronic
world, brevity is all important - even when you are referring to it.)
"E-mail," the mother of the linguistic e-revolution, has spawned a number of
derivatives. E-banking (online banking). E-book (any book-length work
published electronically). E-commerce (buying and selling over the
Internet). E-card (a greeting sent by e-mail). E-crime (various scams in
cyberspace). E-trade (online stock trading). E-lancer (a freelancer who
works via the Internet). E-print (a reprint of an article distributed
If we believe the predictions of economists, soon we will be putting an "e"
in front of almost everything. E-friends (those we meet and interact with
only over the Internet). E-millionaires (those who suddenly have become rich
off Internet IPOs).
E-imagination means Internet-related inspiration - applied to stories, Web
design or business models. There is even an Internet business specializing
in Web content that has made a word play of the online evolution by calling
But the technological revolution is not just bringing us "e" words. Some of
the new words born in cyberspace are missing a prefix. "Cybersquatter" is a
person who registers names for potentially popular Web sites in order to
sell them to companies who want them. "Dot-com" refers to a company that has
a web address. And "DSL" is an abbreviation for "digital scriber line," a
high-speed Internet link that uses standard telephone lines.
But "e", a small letter that casts a big shadow, is still by far the most
dominant linguistic change brought about by the Internet. In Webster's New
World Dictionary, "e" is defined simply as the fifth letter of the English
But in reality, "e" is a prefix, colonizing old words by preceding them, and
irrevocably changing their meanings.
Dennis Baron, Head debaron at uiuc.edu
Department of English 217-333-2390
University of Illinois fax: 217-333-4321
608 S. Wright St. http:www//english.uiuc.edu/baron
Urbana, IL 61801
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