Don’t You Mean Web Site?

In college I had a roommate who was otherwise really cool. But he had this thing where if someone pronounced Michaelangelo (referring, of course, to Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, the great renaissance whatever) in the Anglicized manner, he would guffaw and blabber on about how it’s Meekaelangelo, you uncultured heathen, because that’s how they say it in Italy.

Well, I grew up with the Ninja Turtles, and I refuse to say Meekelangelo. So on one certain occasion I was derided for sounding like a stupid American. I, however, was prepared for the onslaught, and I spat back that names are commonly adopted into languages and modified so they’re easier to pronounce/less silly-sounding. Like, who was that guy that circumnavigated the globe?

“Magellan?” my roommate scoffed.

“You mean Fernão de Magalhães?” I offered back in a stellar Portuguese accent. “But I thought he was the one who discovered the New World. You know, the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria…?”

“That’s Christopher Columbus, you dumbass.”

“No, in 15th century Genoese it’s Christoffa Corombo. You’re saying it like a stupid American. Geez, and he’s just as Italian as Michaelangelo.” Then I enquired whether he knew how to pronounce “Erik the Red” in his native language, and since I didn’t either we went to a movie.

Well, every so often some really astute little terd writes in and says “It’s actually spelled Web site, ‘Web’ being capitalized because it’s short for World Wide Web as opposed to a spider’s web. And a site is an independent thing – there’s no such thing as a ‘website’. In fact, my Mirriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary specifically states…”

So I’m going to take some time to say that we know what your Mirriam Webster’s states and doesn’t state, and guess what? “Web site” was a word for so long that “website” became a word, too! That’s how English works. It doesn’t matter whether it used to have a proper noun because it’s entered the common vernacular, and in English the dictionary spells words how people spell words, not the other way around like they do in France where they have to fight to hold on to their culture and language against jeans, Nintendo and the King’s English! Yes, in some countries a national committee decides what is the right and wrong way to spell, pronounce, etc. But it America (and Britain), language is created by the people and for the people just like everything else. If you don’t believe me, I recommend taking a gander at a recent Oxford English Dictionary, where you’ll also find such untraditional words as “muggle”, “gaydar” and “mini-me”. Yep. You know what they mean, and that makes them words. You won’t find a linguistics scholar on the planet who disagrees with me.

It’s the dictionary’s job to simply document words. I am the empirical source. And I’m spelling it website.