March 19, 2006

Do you correct people who call CDs "records"?

Well, stop it, because you're wrong. Listen to Jacques Barzun:
"The fallacy behind perpetual recoinage ... is to suppose that words must describe instead of stand for and evoke. For a reasonably stable language, words must continue to cover new details, and they can: we ship goods by truck and plane. We have cash in the bank though it is only a balance and not even written down. The bath room has only a shower stall. The table and bed linen are of cotton thread with some plastic intertwined. A lecture is not necessarily read. I am typing on a computer that uses no type. The man you quote who said record store was 'outdated but still in use' didn't stop to think. What are CD's and DVD's if not records?"
I enjoy observations like this. They're like Seinfeld jokes -- except not funny. Just satisfying.

24 comments:

Ilkka Kokkarinen said...

My related problem is what verb I should use to refer to storing a TV program in the digital terminal (essentially cablebox + tivo).

To "record" a show sounds good, but I tend to slip to use "tape" for this activity. "Tivo" would be a good and unambigous verb, but there are trademark issues. Of course, many words that we now use as general words used to be trademarks and product names.

Michael Farris said...

I basically agree but in my case I couldn't call CD's "records" right away as there was a several year overlap from by first CD purchase to final vinyl purchase and 'record' was more restricted to vinyl (a word I write easily than I can say).

Wade_Garrett said...

I've always used the word "album" instead of "record." Album and "record" were once interchangeable, but somehow I feel as if its more appropriate to refer to something like U2's "How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb" as an album instead of a record.

Little things happen all the time that make me feel like an old man, even though I'm only 25. Did you know that there are some people old enough to be law students who not only never bought a record, but they never bought a cassette tape? They just went right to cds? That boggles my mind.

faster said...

I use "music store" for "record store." I would say: "I'm going to the music store to get the new David Gilmour CD." I might substitute "album" for "CD," but would never use "record" there.

Jimmy said...

I never bought a "record" but I call music CDs records sometimes. To me a "CD" is the actual round disk whereas the record is the songs on the CD. I would never call a software CD a record but I think record is a legitimate way to refer to a music CD.

Drew W said...

Sometimes people younger than me have tried to correct me when I refer to a CD as a record. I reply that if it's round and it plays music, it's a record.

As I understand it, in the olden days of 78 RPM records, a recording of, say, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony would require so many of them to reproduce the whole composition that they had to be kept in a big cardboard jacket -- an album. That's the term that stuck.

When I worked at Billboard (where our style book had to make judgments over such terminology), an album was what a musical artist produced. A CD is merely a format, just as vinyl discs, audiocassettes and eight-tracks are formats.

As DVDs include a visual component (aside from those high-end DVD-audio discs), I'm not inclined to call them "records."

I used to spend hours on end hanging out in record stores and worked in one for a year back in the '80s. A few years ago, I read an op-ed in the Washington Post by a guy who ran a record store in a college town. Since all the college kids who'd ordinarily shop there were, um, appropriating their music for free off the Internet, his business was doomed. Sad.

Supposedly, the future will be format-free. Music will just be a digital stream that flows from the computer to the iPod or whatever subsequent technologies will replace it.

I know I sound like another wistful old guy, but I think something will be lost there.

John R Henry said...

Terry said:

I've always used the word "album" instead of "record."

I see nothng wrong with "record" for a CD or even a tape. Record is only shorthand for recording and a CD is a recording.

OTOH, as someone else mentioned, there haven't been "albums" since the 40's. An album is a collection of 78's, perhaps 6 Benny Goodman records, that are all held in a hard cover with sleeves bound into it.

My parents had bunches of them. Probably still do in the attic.

So "Record" yes, "Album" no on CD's

John Henry

Lars said...

Do people still say "dial" the phone or the phone is "ringing"? I guess so, I'm pretty sure they don't "button' the phone or answer it when it is "beeping".

D'ja ever notice that electric clocks are made to "tick" like mechanical clocks? You can have that one, Andy.

jinnmabe said...

I've been corrected a couple of times by smart ass Canadians for asking them if I might use their bathroom. Of all the situations in which it is rude to waste someone's time for meaningless, petty, pedantic correction, someone asking you in a hurried voice, "Might I use your bathroom?" is surely at the top of the list.

Rick Lee said...

This subject has been a sore spot for me for years. To me, an album is a certain collection of songs. It doesn't matter on what medium it's stored whether on LP, tape or CD. It has always bothered me that people stopped using "album" when the music stopped coming on vinyl LPs.

Richard Fagin said...

You mean a CD isn't a certificate of deposit?

Maxine Weiss said...

Nobody ever called their 8-tracks....records, or albums.

Peace, Maxine

Gundovald said...

...and here all along, I thought old Prof Barzun was dead!

Marghlar said...

I'm with Rick Lee...it's an album, whether it's stored on vinyl, a CD, or my hard drive. For me, an album refers just to a set order of songs, released and sold as a package.

Personally, I would always limit the word record to a vinyl disc, but it doesn't bother me when people use it for either vinyl or CDs. I agree, however, that it needs to be a disc of some sort -- I'd never call an iTunes album a "record."

Susan said...

I love these out-of-date, but still useful terms. I can remember my grandmother's generation still calling the refrigerator an "ice box" long after the electric motor had replaced the block of ice. But I haven't heard that term in decades.

Out of Step in Kfar Saba said...

This post goes straight to my kids!

Ann Althouse said...

I wish we still said "ice box." It's a much more concrete and snappy word than "refrigerator." And what's with the "re" in "refrigerator"? Are they assuming the stuff was cold before but warmed up before we got the chance to put it in?

Sean E said...

"I've been corrected a couple of times by smart ass Canadians for asking them if I might use their bathroom."

I'm Canadian, and I always say "bathroom". What do your friends call it?

"I wish we still said 'ice box.' It's a much more concrete and snappy word than 'refrigerator.'"

What's wrong with "fridge"? Or is that a Canadianism?

Back on topic, I use record and album interchangeably for any collection of music. CD refers to the medium. There has to be generic term that refers to CDs, tapes, vinyl, et al and why invent new ones when we have pefectly good words just sitting there unused?

Bruce Hayden said...

Under copyright law, CDs are records, or, more precisely, "phonorecords", which are defined under 17 USC 101 as 'material objects in which sounds, other than those accompanying a motion picture or other audiovisual work, are fixed by any method now known or later developed, and from which the sounds can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. The term “phonorecords” includes the material object in which the sounds are first fixed.'

SippicanCottage said...

"Hand me that thing there, you idjit, no, not that thing, the other thing." is working well for me right now. I will entertain other suggestions for nomenclature, of course, but it's hard to beat the tried and true.

Tibore said...

Well, just how fine do we wanna split a hair over this? On the one hand, a CD is definitely a "record" of the instance the sound (in most cases, music) was produced. On the other hand, the popular connotation for "record" is in reference to the vinyl album, not the optical disc. We can look in the dictionary and see that a "record" is:

"a disc with a spiral groove carrying recorded sound for phonograph reproduction"

...which implies that the definition is limited to the vinyl album. But then again, Bruce Hayden's quote of the copyright encompasses both the vinyl album and the optical disc. So: Quandary. We can look at it in either way.

Frankly, I'd hate to think that our language is so picky that the distinction being made here is that important. I personally consider "records" and "CD's" to be different creatures simply because that's the way I and all my friends have always considered them; one's vinyl and analog, the other is some sort of polycarbonate mismash and digital. And we're old enough (barely!) to remember owning vinyl albums (the first CDs came along when I was a teenager). But in spite of having owned vinyl albums before, we still make the distinction. Just because they're both "records" of some acoustical performance doesn't change the fact that they're still different creatures to me. But on the other hand, I personally don't go around correcting anyone who calls a CD a "record", because I don't think the differences are so profound they absolutely require a distinction. I still understand what the other person is referring to. And in the end, understanding the meaning despite the disparate terms used is what's important, right?

jinnmabe said...

They called it a "washroom," because there was no bathtub in it. Two of them from Alberta, and one from Toronto. And they weren't my friends.

Paco Wové said...

...they weren't my friends.

Obviously.

Kev said...

Late to the party again, so nobody will see this besides Ann, but I had to comment on this:

"I use "music store" for "record store."

But that muddies things up as well, because, for those of us who are musicians, a "music store" is a place where you go to buy sheet music, saxophone reeds, guitar strings, etc.