I hate the word "webinar."
I don't mind "podcast" or "blogosphere" or "Wikipedia," and I happen to love "netiquette." But there's something about "webinar" that produces a frisson of ickiness every time I see or hear it, an inward "ew."
A likeminded Facebook wag expressed this visceral aversion in naming the group he founded "Change the word 'webinar' to another word that doesn't trigger my gag reflex," "dedicated to the elimination of the word 'webinar' from a decent culture's lexicon."
In response, one innocent posted: "I actually had never heard the word before. Do people really use it in sentences with a straight face?" This person has apparently been insulated, hitherto, from my world, rife as it is with senseless acts of violence committed against the language by people attempting to teach, coach or otherwise instruct.
That my prickly disregard for "webinar" is shared, however, does not explain why this Net neologism inspires such ire.
Perhaps it's because "seminar," from which "webinar" is so inelegantly derived, is such a respectable word. Quoth Merriam-Webster.com:
Etymology: German, from Latin seminarium, nursery
1: a group of advanced students studying under a professor with each doing original research and all exchanging results through reports and discussions
2: a (1): a course of study pursued by a seminar (2): an advanced or graduate course often featuring informality and discussion; b: a scheduled meeting of a seminar or a room for such meetings
3: a meeting for giving and discussing information
'Tis truly a noble word. "Webinar?" Ignoble at best.Maybe "webinar" gives me hives because it's so linguistically imprecise. Retired Winston-Salem Journal editor Richard Creed, in a 2007 column, broke down the roots of "seminar," citing "semin," translated as "a beginning" and "arium," meaning "place." Thus, he posits: "Etymologically, [webinar] can mean nothing more than a web place. It could be argued, therefore, that anyone who sets up any kind of web site — historical, equestrian, religious or pornographic, for instance — has set up a webinar ... Webinar is a mindless perversion of seminar." Not that a mindful perversion would make it any better.
And so, I tilt at windmills as "webinar" gains an ever more tenacious toehold in the language. Heck, there are even webinars on webinars, so I suspect my entreaties to just say "seminar" — its location in cyberspace made clear in context — or "online seminar" will go unheeded. (I can hear it now: "Online seminar? Good God, woman — that's five syllables!")
But I shall not give up the fight; once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more — "Unsubscribe," anyone?
I know you, too, can be a hater. Get splenetic with your own "webinar" in the comments below.
Julia Rubiner is a partner in Editorial Emergency, a Los Angeles copy shop specializing in content manufacturing and brand communications for entertainment, lifestyle and nonprofit concerns. She is also a personal-branding consultant, writing resumes, LinkedIn summaries and executive bios, among other tools, for people in creative fields who want to advance their careers. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, she was an editor of reference publications. Rubiner wears the label "word nerd" as a badge of honor.Click here to read other articles by Julia Rubiner
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