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Net – Podictionary Word of the Day

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Once upon a time my mother was knitting a style of sweater that had many open holes in the weave. My father looked at it and said “no wonder it’s going so fast, it’s mostly air.”

That’s the thing about nets too, they’re mostly air; but it’s what’s around the air that does the job.

I was looking at the web based dictionary wordnik and one of the features they have is a little graphic representing frequency of a word’s appearance over time. It’s interesting that their plot for the word net falls off during the 1920s to 1950s and then pops back up again in the 1990s.

netIt seems obvious to me that the frequency of the word net over the past decade would have increased as an abbreviation for the word internet.

I wonder what made the word less frequent after 1950; perhaps more grocery store shopping and less small-scale fishing? I don’t picture small-scale fishermen as being terribly prolific writers who’d have bulked up the word-stock before that.

If you have any ideas let me know.

Of course it could be that the wordnik stats feature has a kink in it.

Clearly the internet is so called because it is full of links between nodes, just like other networks; streets, train tracks, groups of friends.

All of these networks are so called because a real net is strands linking knots.

But it turns out that a real net is called a net not because of the strands but because of the knots.

I mentioned knitting and nodes as well as net and knot and all of these words go back to a knotty origin. They have a granular kind of Old English taste to them don’t they?


Five days a week Charles Hodgson produces Podictionary – the podcast for word lovers, Thursday episodes here at OUPblog. He’s also the author of several books including his latest History of Wine Words – An Intoxicating Dictionary of Etymology from the Vineyard, Glass, and Bottle.

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