Re: Dumb question: is it "email", "Email", "e-mail", or "E-mail"

Subject: Re: Dumb question: is it "email", "Email", "e-mail", or "E-mail"
From: "Jerry Kindall" <j -dot- kindall -at- tecplot -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 9 Jan 2009 13:37:41 -0800

Thus spake "Downing, David" <DavidDowning -at- users -dot- com>:

> without the hyphen, I keep wanting to pronounce it "em-ale."

Of the popular alternatives, "e-mail" is the least bad, and this is why.

But imagine if, eight years into the twenty-first century, we were
having a serious debate about whether there should be a hyphen after the
"e" in "e-computer." It is taken for granted that the "e" is vital to
distinguish electronic computers from people who perform computations
or, possibly, from mechanical or hydraulic tabulating machinery; the
discussion, instead, is entirely about whether the hyphen should or
should not be used, what parts of the word should be capitalized, if
any, and so on. Of particular note is a comment pointing out the
potential ugliness of the pronunciation of "ecomputer" --
ECCHHH-omputer! Obviously, this would be silly, because those other
senses of "computer" are obsolete.

I propose starting a movement to begin referring to electronic mail as
"mail." I think it's safe now. Electronic has been the predominant
type for some time. (For me, "some time" is about twenty years.) If
someone tells you they're going to mail you photos of their vacation,
you don't still expect to receive prints in an envelope, do you?

The tools one uses to work with mail rarely use the e-word -- the basic
UNIX mail client is called "mail," not "e-mail," and a common MTA is
called "sendmail," not "sende-mail." Mail is transferred using SMTP,
not SE-MTP, and accessed using IMAP, not IE-MAP. (Or POP, the Post
Office Protocol -- not E-POP.) Outlook has "mailboxes," not
"e-mailboxes," and the command to create a new message is File > New >
Mail Message, though oddly enough Outlook does have a "Junk E-mail"
folder (Freudian slip, perhaps). The Mac's standard mail client is
called, simply, Mail. AOL's famous greeting (recorded 15-ish years
ago!) is "You've Got Mail," not "You've Got E-mail." You can find
similar examples going back to the dawn of modern mail in the early
1970s.

"Electronic mail" is not a special type of mail, nor is the term a
metaphor or an analogy for "real" mail. It is the thing itself, and
completely ordinary. Perhaps it's time to start calling "e-mail" by its
proper name.

What we really need is a good word for non-electronic mail. I suggest
we Americans adopt the British "post." ("Any post, perchance, Gromit?")
To my ears, although probably not to British ones, this makes physical
mail sound appropriately quaint.

--
Jerry Kindall, SDK Technical Writer
Tecplot, Inc. | Enjoy the View
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