Watching tv

Another cartoon, this time a Zits on tv and television (and tv and television):

It’s Father’s Day weekend in the U.S. — one of those commercial holidays, designed for gift-buying (typically, in very gender-stereotypical ways) and greeting-card-sending. This cartoon at least has a father in it, though it’s not specifically aimed at Dad.

For many, especially older, U.S. speakers, the words television and tv are denotative equivalents, differing only in their stylistic levels (neutral or formal vs. informal/colloquial). Both are ambiguous (or polysemous) as between, among other things, a mass-noun, abstract use referring to a communications service or medium and a count-noun, concrete use referring to a physical device; the uses of radio are parallel. So you can watch television on a television, watch tv on a tv, and listen to radio on a radio.

But denotative equivalents tend to give way to denotatively discriminated items. In the case of television and tv, the former has begun to be specialized in the communications-device sense, the latter in the communications-medium sense. So for kids these days, there’s no stylistic shift in watch tv on a television.

The shift was undoubtedly encouraged by the development of an alternative device for watching (and listening to) broadcast services: the computer. (Similarly for video and audio recordings, which are no longer tied to machines specifically designed to play them.)

So both cultural practices and linguistic usages are changing, and Jeremy and his friends are in both vanguards.

One Response to “Watching tv”

  1. Gay disco « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Parades in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York (I’ll be watching the San Francisco event on my computer) — about gay discos and gay disco music in my recent experience, in three parts: The Saint […]

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