Neal Whitman nwhitman at AMERITECH.NET
Thu Dec 2 14:17:17 UTC 2010

Now on Visual Thesaurus, noting contributions from Dave Wilton and Paul

Neal Whitman
Email: nwhitman at

> On Mon, Nov 29, 2010 at 1:57 PM, Paul Frank <paulfrank at>
> wrote:
>>> The OED defines "cable" as "cablegram" and "cablegram" as "A message
>>> sent by submarine telegraph cable." The New Oxford American Dictionary
>>> defines cable and cablegram as "a telegraph message sent by cable."
>>> Is that what the cables and diplomatic cables Wikileaks has been
>>> publishing are?
>> On Mon, Nov 29, 2010 at 1:13 PM, Dave Wilton <dave at> wrote:
>>> Technically no. "Cable" is diplomatic jargon for a message between an
>>> embassy and the capital. It once referred to submarine telegraphic
>>> traffic, but now it's done via internet, satellite, and other means, but
>>> the outdated term remains, like "dialing a phone."
>> That's what I figured: diplomatic jargon for a message between an
>> embassy and the capital. And it's not a sense covered by any of my
>> dictionaries. The diplomatic component appears to me to be essential.
>> The International Committee of the Red Cross, for example, is
>> headquartered in Geneva and has missions in most of the world's
>> trouble spots, but it doesn't receive "cables" from its field offices
>> (or missions, in ICRC jargon). It receives classified and encrypted
>> messages which are not referred to as "cables" (actually, they're not
>> referred to as anything by the press, because none of those messages
>> has been leaked in decades; within the ICRC they are called
>> "inter-site messages" or just "messages"; the ICRC reports that were
>> leaked in April 2009 were a different type of communication and they
>> were leaked by the American side; but I digress). Perhaps this
>> diplomatic meaning of the word "cable" ought to be covered by
>> dictionaries.
>> Paul

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