Friday, September 05, 2008



Today, at my place of employment, I'll be obliged to participate in a "webinar" lasting 90 minutes. From a co-worker, who has already participated, I learned that the "webinar" consists of someone discussing a series of PowerPoint slides. Prof. Dr. Edsger W. Dijkstra (1930-2002), in his Answers to questions from students of Software Engineering, expressed perfectly my feelings about PowerPoint: "Gadgets are not necessarily an improvement, vide the succession Blackboard -> Overhead Projector -> PowerPoint." Defenceless little schoolchildren are nowadays taught how to use PowerPoint for their classroom presentations, or so I've heard.

If there is an uglier neologism than webinar, I'm not aware of it. Apparently Eric R. Korb is guilty of coining the word in 1998. Laxicographers have actually granted it admission to a dictionary (Merriam-Webster, 11th edition). It also appears, more appropriately, on the Lake Superior University 2005 List of Banished Words. Supposedly it is a combination of web and seminar. Unlike webcast, which at least has the merit of being formed from two distinct, recognizable roots, webinar gives the mistaken impression that there exists a word or root inar. Seminar is a good, honest word, from Latin seminarium (seed plot, nursery), itself from semen (seed), from which have also sprouted English disseminate, inseminate, and seminal.

Maybe there is a newly minted word even uglier than webinar. A few weeks ago, while riding in a car, I saw a sign for a company named Esultants.

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