Tape is a sticky term
July 15, 2009 8:34 AM   Subscribe

How long will it take to remove the word "videotape" from the collective vocabulary?

I caught myself yesterday asking somebody if his performance was videotaped. Of course, there is no tape involved in this process any more. Why was that the first phrase that sprang to mind even though "recorded" or "digitally recorded" are the technically accurate terms? How long does it take for language to catch up with technological obsolescence?
posted by crazycanuck to Writing & Language (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Much digital video is still recorded on tape, so really it's necessarily an outdated term.
posted by onshi at 8:36 AM on July 15, 2009

... not necessarily...
posted by onshi at 8:37 AM on July 15, 2009

Response by poster: In this case there was no tape at all, I was watching the video on his desktop immediately after recording.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:40 AM on July 15, 2009

posted by reductiondesign at 8:44 AM on July 15, 2009

I don't know, but I can say that I constantly call CDs 'records'....
posted by carmen at 8:50 AM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Probably never. We will also carbon copy folks in email and charge our iPhones with cigarette lighters.
posted by bondcliff at 8:50 AM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

FWIW, I have a digital TV recorder (Sky Plus, which I guess is the UK equivalent of Tivo) and my parents regularly call me and ask me to "tape" stuff for them.
posted by afx237vi at 8:55 AM on July 15, 2009

I third "never".

Instead, we'll just lose track of the origin of the word, and later generations will look up the word "tape" in the dictionary and be amused by the word origin. It'll be less literally true, but still in use as metaphor.

"Oh.... so we used to use actual TAPE to store data on, and that's why it's called taping! Cool."

I mean, we still "dial" phone numbers, even though I haven't seen a phone with a rotary dial since childhood. (For that matter, we call them cell phones or mobile phones, even though they're actually radios.)
posted by rokusan at 8:55 AM on July 15, 2009 [5 favorites]

I dial numbers on my iPhone and rewind MP3s, while reading websites broken into pages. I'm guessing never.
posted by fightorflight at 8:56 AM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

We still "sail" across the sea on an aircraft carrier; we "dial" numbers on non-rotary phones. There are probably more. Wordnik says the word appears in the 1913 unabridged Webster's Dictionary, so it's been around for quite a long time, but perhaps it wasn't used as a verb that early.

Also, as you mention, one was always able to say "record a video" or "make a video", regardless of the technological means of storing/transmitting it. So perhaps a multi-word verb like these will just become more common than "videotape".
posted by mdonley at 8:56 AM on July 15, 2009

We still call CDs record albums, even though very little has been released in album form since the days of 78s almost sixty years ago. I'd say it'll be around for a while, since there's no better word to replace it with yet. "Recorded" is too generic; you could mean audio only, depending on the context. I'd say even worse than that, when I take my videocamera someplace, I'm filming what's going on. I've been trying to think of things which have successfully been replaced by modern versions of the word, but I'm coming up short.
posted by AzraelBrown at 9:08 AM on July 15, 2009

Just to be a bit contrary I'm not sure "never" is correct. I don't think the word will go away and while our parents may use the word, I'm not sure our kids will. For example while we still "dial" phones I don't hear (most young) people use "videotape" with respect to DVRs. There are definitely terms which stick - I'm not sure this is one of them.

I think it will take a generation but will slip from common usage at some point.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:09 AM on July 15, 2009

(An album references a collection of works, its still valid despite the medium)
posted by bitdamaged at 9:11 AM on July 15, 2009

People will say "TiVo that" (or even "DVR"), but it's clumsy. I guess "record" could replace it in common usage?
posted by davextreme at 9:33 AM on July 15, 2009

I suspect it involves a generation dying and a new technology emerging that is different enough from the first that it gets adopted by the new generation. I still call CDs records because I grew up buying records, but I wonder if the generation being born now will ever do that since they'll buy bundled songs online their entire life. Same with the Tivo example.
posted by scunning at 9:35 AM on July 15, 2009

It's probably just because you're old. ;)

I grew up with tapes and mourned their loss (I hate not being in full control of where I start my movie). But I say "record." Or "DVR" or "TiVo" (I use the latter even though I don't have TiVo; I guess it's like the Q-tip : cotton swab).

I don't call anything to do with music "records." Not the albums, not the stores, etc. Well actually, I say "record company," although since they might one day be obsolete, maybe that term will go, too.

But, I do think that "to tape" has come to mean "to record." I probably shouldn't notice if someone said that they taped a show, meaning that they DVRed it.

As for rewind... I think I usually say "go back" or "hit the rewind button/hit rewind" since the button has the same symbol as the old rewind for tapes. When I think of the word "rewind," I really do hear in my head that whirring of the spinning tape.

What about newspaper/print-media terms? Not that I've ever purchased a newspaper...
posted by thebazilist at 9:53 AM on July 15, 2009

I also expect it to die out in a generation or two from general use. As other have noted, it's still there professionally (as well, there's still DV and personal camcorders that record to tape rather than an SD hard or hard disc).

Our kids don't ask me to tape/tivo anything (I use mythtv). I think they mostly ask if I can "get" X show. Or, "Are there any new episodes of Y available?" The shows/movies just magically are there, named by title in the directory, and they don't care about the process of recorded from the air or downloaded. The only problem with recorded from the air is that they have to remember to push the commercial skip button if we haven't edited out the commercials already.

We don't really watch anything "live" and I think the concept for the younger two isn't something that they'd necessarily grasp really well. It's hard enough to explain to youngest one why there aren't any new magic school busses. Without a "live" source, recording doesn't make as much sense.

And I concur that the term will become "record," but I still find myself saying "I'll tape that." on odd occaisions. I never call CD's records, but I'll call them albums. I do the same for an artists release which are all mp3s; they're an album.
posted by nobeagle at 9:58 AM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Why was that the first phrase that sprang to mind even though "recorded" or "digitally recorded" are the technically accurate terms? How long does it take for language to catch up with technological obsolescence?

It's less about technical accuracy and more about whether or not the old word will be re-purposed to fit new technical contexts. The definitions of words like "video" and "tape" can change over time, so that if people still use the verb form of tape is used for pure digital recording then that is what the word will mean. Over time the etymology is lost to most people and they only see the word in its present context unassociated from previous meanings.

As for what will happen to videotape specifically, I'm not sure. Tape as a noun seems to have already been supplanted by more accurate words like disc or files in cases where an actual tape isn't used. Tape as a verb has been replaced by record in a lot of cases, but not all. Video as noun is still going strong, especially since computer motion pictures are called digital video. Video as an adjective is also popular for the same reason (such as video cameras). Overall I think the verb videotape doesn't have much of a chance of surviving long term, because digital video usually contains digital, and "digital videotape" as a term isn't used. Tape has a better chance I think.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:58 AM on July 15, 2009

Another vote for "never." I was just at an event this past weekend where it was announced that "filming" wasn't allowed. I'm sure that half the people in that room had never seen a roll of film before, but the majority certainly had digital cameras with video functions.
posted by chez shoes at 9:59 AM on July 15, 2009

Nthing that for the most part, "taping" has become "recording," although sometimes my friends and I will refer to mix CDs as "mixtapes."

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go return some videotapes...
posted by Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld at 10:06 AM on July 15, 2009

These conventions may stick around for a while. Current versions of Microsoft Word still use an icon of a floppy disk to indicate the "save" button, even though no one uses floppy disks anymore. I saw a Sony e-book reader recently that has a little icon of a magnifying glass to enlarge the font size, and and icon of a turning page to indicate the "next page" button even though there is no turning (or physical page) involved in that operation. I assume they'll keep using such conventions as long as people understand what they mean. So one of two things will happen: either people will stop understanding what those things mean and we'll come up with new conventions, or the old conventions will simply become associated with the new technology and people will just forget how they ever originated.
posted by Nothlit at 10:16 AM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Long enough that 'never' is close enough of an approximation...

Do you use a IR remote? What do your parents call it? Do you call it a clicker? Did you know that the original 'remotes' used sonic 'clicking' to change channels? My grandparents and parents call it a remote or clicker. I call it a remote....and until (>20-30 years) they die out, they'll continue to hold onto the word...

Unless some technology come
posted by filmgeek at 10:19 AM on July 15, 2009

I don't call anything to do with music "records."

I do! CDs, anyway -- it's round, it's a recording, when it's spinning about its axis, you hear music -- it's a record!

MP3s, on the other hand -- they're just files. Data, really.
posted by Rash at 11:38 AM on July 15, 2009

It's going to take a very long time. I still call albums 'records'. Geez... does anybody even call them albums anymore? What do you call a new release when it shows up in the iTunes Store?

Tape has been a verb for so long that people who never actually USED tape still say they're taping things.

Then again... Xerox hasn't been a verb for a long long time... so... the real answer to your question probably is "?"
posted by 2oh1 at 11:39 AM on July 15, 2009

Not to beat a dead horse, but many of the earthier expressions we use are left over from the 19th Century or earlier. No one changes horses any more, but you wouldn't do it midstream. Very few people know exactly how stubborn mules actually are, or need to make hay while the sun shines.

Words are like that. To "barge in" used to refer to the unwieldiness of barges. "Tape" just means "record." "Guys" can mean a bunch of women ("hey, guys!"). It's just simpler to stick with the words we know.
posted by musofire at 11:44 AM on July 15, 2009

You will never get rid of it. But your children will, and they'll remark on how you use it one day, and you'll feel old.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:48 AM on July 15, 2009

I'd say "videotape" as a verb will recede from language at about the time that a new term is invented for "writing music" on a computer.
posted by rhizome at 11:49 AM on July 15, 2009

Current versions of Microsoft Word still use an icon of a floppy disk to indicate the "save" button, even though no one uses floppy disks anymore.

The elementary school kids around here think it's a picture of a memory/SD card.
posted by niles at 2:22 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Record = those black vinyl things. I once thought the term 'record store' meant it didn't sell CDs.
posted by lsemel at 2:53 PM on July 15, 2009

Probably about the same time we stop making the cranking roll-down gesture to tell people to open their car windows.
posted by knowles at 3:55 PM on July 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

Why not about 100 years? It will fade as fewer and fewer people actually have some connection to the term. At 100 years most of us will be dead, a replacement term will be made and thus the fading begins. Heck, my kids say "record it" and have no idea what "videotape it" means.
posted by bkeene12 at 8:27 PM on July 15, 2009

It's not never. It's as long as we stop using it, i.e. people who used it have died.

You may not see its demise.
posted by fan_of_all_things_small at 6:45 AM on July 16, 2009

Incidentally, we still say that we "dial" a telephone, but the days of phone with actual dials on them are long since past. This tells me that "videotaping" may continue for some time.
posted by Vorteks at 11:57 AM on July 16, 2009

Heck, my kids say "record it" and have no idea what "videotape it" means.

But as you just pointed out... they say "record", even though (presumably) they don't literally mean "put that program inside my heart."
posted by rokusan at 2:16 PM on August 29, 2009

« Older Oh nuts, it is Bookfinderfilter time again.   |   How to suggest keyboard shortcuts in a web app? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.