Language and technology

Sometimes it is amazing to see how language is influenced by technology.

Yesterday I was watching the episode “Cover Story” from the TV show Navy CIS. In this episode Abby, the weird girl from the crime lab, has to analyze three letters sent by a stalker to the publisher of a novel obviously used by someone to determine victims to kill.

“Abby” in the TV show “Navy CIS”

As she reports results of her findings she uses an interesting term: “See what I have found out about the n-Mail … “. As everyone looks very puzzled at her she explains: “n-Mail stands for normal mail, just to distinguish this from e-Mail …”

Thus she calls those paper letters “n-Mail”. Isn’t that funny ? Originally in our language we used “mail” for mail and later on “e-mail” for a special type of mail introduced through the internet.

Ah! I am using muscles I didn’t even know I had! No wonder you’re stuck at chapter six

My favorite magazine “bild der wissenschaft” always publishes some letters to the editor every month and they either mention the name of the writer and his/her city, in case the letter was sent by regular mail, or the name and the addendum “per mail”. In a letter I was writing to them I mentioned that “per mail” is not really accurate since everyone is writing to them per mail; what they probably mean is “e-mail”. In their response they stated that “mail” nowadays means “e-mail” ( when used in Germany, I guess ). Anyway, some weeks later they changed it and use the term “per e-mail” now. Probably others have complained about this as well.

This episode from this TV show made me think about what actually is “n-Mail” nowadays ? I actually would think that “n-Mail” is equivalent to “e-Mail” since “e-Mail” has become our normal way to communicate in written form and using paper letters starts to become the exception, the antiquated way to communicate. Check yourself: how many paper letters do you write and send out per week, and how many e-mails do you send out per week ?

May be “p-Mail” would be a better term because it accurately describes the medium ( “paper” vs. “electronic” ) used for that type of mail.


One Response to “Language and technology”

  1. GAP Says:

    Hi Axel,
    I would prefer to make a difference nowadays between ‘snail mail’ and mail or ‘e-mail’. So everyone understands the difference because the normal post is as quick as a snail. And actually everyone really uses e-mail for mails. So the word mail stands today for e-mail.

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