Post-post post

It’s undeniable: except for the first post in this blog, every post has been a post-post post. The phrase means ‘a post after another post,’ so it’s clear that the last two occurrences of post in the phrase post-post post are the same word. It’s a word that Spanish, under the international onslaught of blogging in the past decade, quickly borrowed, and from that noun it formed the verb postear ‘to post.’ For example, on one website I found the question “¿En que [i.e. qué] casos puedo denunciar un post?” The first answer given was for “Material que ya fue posteado anteriormente (famosos reposts).”

What may not be so obvious is that the English post that Spanish has borrowed is the same as the English post that means, in the definition of the 1913 Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary: ‘A piece of timber, metal, or other solid substance, fixed, or to be fixed, firmly in an upright position, especially when intended as a stay or support to something else; a pillar; as, a hitching post; a fence post; the posts of a house.’ The blog-related sense of post arose from the ‘timber’ sense of post via the verb to post, whose original meaning was ‘To attach to a post, a wall, or other usual place of affixing public notices; to placard; as, to post a notice; to post playbills.’ The 1913 Webster’s went on to explain: “Formerly, a large post was erected before the sheriff’s office, or in some public place, upon which legal notices were displayed. This way of advertisement has not entirely gone of use.” Indeed it hasn’t, even a century later: we still call a certain type of document that gets posted, especially to a wall, a poster, a word that Spanish has likewise borrowed, adding only an accent: póster. (The English poster also has a sense that Spanish póster lacks, namely ‘a person who posts.’ That has led to the online initialism OP, for ‘original poster,’ i.e. ‘the person who wrote the first post in what became an online conversation.’)

Coming back to the timber sort of post, we note that Spanish has the cognate poste, which therefore stands alongside the recently acquired post as a doublet. English borrowed, and Spanish inherited, its ‘timber’ word from the synonymous Latin postis. As for the first post in the phrase post-post post, it’s an English use of the Latin preposition post that meant ‘after.’

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. shoreacres
    Jan 24, 2012 @ 22:09:47

    Oh! All that post-post-posting left my head spinning!

    One of the most famous instances of posting, of course, was Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. There was nothing extraordinary about that act – in those days, the wooden church doors were a common place for posting notices. What I do wonder is whether 16th century Germans also “posted”, or if they had another word for the practice.

    And of course the photo-processing program Picnik (soon to be defunct, thanks to the Google that’s eating everything) has a “posterize” function – so that the images in our posts can look like posters when we post them!


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Jan 24, 2012 @ 22:49:36

      I can see that it sent you reeling from pillar to post.

      Good example, Luther. I looked in a simple German dictionary to see how it translates the verb to post. I found the compound verb anschlagen, where the basic verb schlagen means ‘to beat, strike, hit.’ I also found postieren, which of course is borrowed from Latin or a Romance language or maybe even English. Both of those verbs are modern German, and I don’t know what people in Luther’s time said.

      Posterize is a term I learned in the 1970s in connection with film photography. As you pointed out, posterization is a technique for making a photograph look like the simpler type of image that was easier to render on a poster.

      And good for you for squeezing so many posts into that last sentence of your post-post comment!


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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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