30-Second Word Whoop: “Content”
It finally happened. My reading skills failed me.
As digital journalism scooches into the spot old-fashioned journalism used to live in my brain — you know, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) supplanting the 5 W’s (Who, What, Where, When and hoW) and all that — I mistook the word “content” here: “(So-and-so) upped the ante in the technology race aimed at proving it’s not content simply to be …”
Oh! You mean “content,” accent on the “tent,” as an adjective … a la “satisfied” or “smug” or, far be it for me to assume, “happy.”
I first read it as evidence it didn’t qualify as “content,” accent on the “con,” as in the noun describing “substantive information,” “news product” or even “filler” — the stuff we’re filling websites and news holes with these days.
Wowie zowie. As we race to provide content for various digital delivery systems, have we left out one key ingredient? Our happiness?
Journalists were never a very happy bunch, anyway, true that. And most news sites these days are content merely to have fresh if not original content, doesn’t much matter what it is.
“Content” is an example of a homograph: a word that has the same spelling as another word but has a different sound and a different meaning, like lead, wind, bass. Not to be confused with a homophone (pray/prey) or a homonym (heir/air). Forsaking for the moment the argument that some homophones are homonyms or a homonym must be both a homograph and a homophone to qualify as a homonym, back to the content at hand.
As a plural noun, “contents” can mean something that is contained or topics covered in a book … or perhaps on a table, as in “table of contents,” jk. “Content” alone can refer to significance or profundity — a jukebox musical that lacks content.
What came first? The filler (content) or the fulfillment one gets from it (content)?
It seems the filler did, dating to 1375–1425 late Middle English, derived from the Medieval Latin contentum, the noun form of a neutered Latin contentus, the past participle of continēre, to contain. Fulfillment came as an afterthought in 1400–50 late Middle English, deriving from Latin contentus satisfied, special use of past participle of continēre.
Still, closely aligned. Like a pie filling and the feeling you get having fully digested it. Another thing we journalists know only too well.