Tooba Ghani
April 19,2019

The journey starts with the versatile Arabic word khazana meaning to store up......

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Before magazines make an exit in the wake of this deadly digitalization, let’s follow the trail of history and see how “magazine” made it to the English dictionary.

The journey starts with the versatile Arabic word khazana meaning to store up. (Urdu language has exactly the same word for treasure). Then comes makhzan, a noun meaning storehouse and its plural makhazin. This Arabic word travelled across Mediterranean and like polizzino (certificate of credit) and tramezzino (triangular sandwiches), became the Italian magazzino.

Next stop was France where “magazzino” turned into French “magasin”. And obviously, who could stop magasin from heading to Britain after that? Finally, in England, people began to say and write “magazine” as a proper English word. Interestingly, after travelling for so long, the original meaning of the word remained the same. Magazine was still a storehouse! Since it was around the time when Britain was busy colonizing the world, they used magazine for a military storehouse where guns and ammunition were stored. Military people liked the word so much that they began to refer to the part of the gun that held bullets as magazine.

Along with colonization, printing industry was also blooming. Literary figures were experimenting with the content and publishing all sorts of different periodicals that weren’t focused on the news. Daniel Defoe’s The Review (1704–13; thrice weekly) and Sir Richard Steele’s The Tatler (1709–11; thrice weekly) are few examples. These periodicals got the attention of other writers and they began to contribute to them; soon more and more periodicals were published for the educated lot.

At the same time, Edward Cave (1691–1754), printer, editor and publisher, decided to publish a periodical that would have stuff on a variety of topics like gardening, politics or economy.

He searched far and wide for a name for his new idea and got stuck with two names. He wanted to keep both of them. So he named his periodical The Gentleman’s Magazine: or, Trader’s Monthly Intelligencer. He thought of “arming” gentlemenwith knowledge through his publication. The first edition came out in January 1731. It was largely a digest of stories that appeared in other publications, but it also had its own column of amusing stories from around the world. This is weird but the first issue was full of stories of murders and executions. Since the reading public loved reading about violence, The Gentleman’s Magazine: or, Trader’s Monthly Intelligencer became extremely popular.

In December 1733, the Monthly Intelligencer part was removed from the title and replaced with the slogan: Containing more in Quantity, and greater variety, than any Book of the Kind and Price.

Cave was kind enough to give employment to Dr Samuel Johnson who was young and had no reputation as a writer. Later, we all know he became a great poet, playwright, essayist, literary critic, biographer, and most importantly he wrote the Dictionary of the English Language, one of the most famous dictionaries in history.

From then onwards, “a publication with a paper cover which is issued regularly, usually every week or every month, and which contains articles, stories, photographs, and advertisements” was called magazine by every English language users.

Reference: Chambers Dictionary of Etymology


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