The Longest Now


Wikipedia: the history of a name
Monday February 07th 2005, 4:24 am
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Wikipedia does not take an article.

Here is a comment I left on David Weinberger’s blog the other day, after I had mentioned that Wikipedia takes no article and JD Lasica had commented that, as of early 2005, according to the [last item in the Miscellaneous] FAQ, both “Wikipedia” and “the Wikipedia” were acceptable uses.

“The English Wikipedia” may be the preferred colloquial usage, and “the wiki ‘pedia” may amuse the mind and roll off of the tongue, but “the Wikipedia” is rarely correct in any sentence, and never when referring to the Wikipedia project as a whole, with the proper noun as the object of the article.

The FAQ answer you linked to above has hardly been copyedited since the silver-tongued Stephen Gilbert placed it into the Wikipedia Overview FAQ v.1 in 2002, at which time the Wikipedia community had yet to rule out the idea of being “the” wiki encyclopedia, justifying the name rather than claiming it.

The truth is, other wiki ‘pedias may appear; since the original question was posed, the community has reached consensus, in the minds of the Wikipedia phalanges and in the Wikipedia articles you read today, on the article-free name.

The circle of articulate digerati who have recently preferred the “the Wikipedia” to the “Wikipedia” option, however, highlight the urgency of the struggle for nomenclatural justice.

I have updated the Wikipedia FAQ to clarify and rectify the reality of the matter, and hope that the “the” the Wikipedia-loving fans of the aforementioned circle have grown accustomed to, will fall from fashion…
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It is true that a dwindling number of Wikipedians write “the Wikipedia”, thinking of it as the Wiki encyclopedia.  A number of outsiders do the same, some also calling it even more inappropriately “the wiki”.   Both uses merit swift remedy.  If ‘Wikipedia’ simply meant an encyclopedia using a wiki, and ‘The Wikipedia’ meant the canonical site, anyone could come along and create “the Minnesota Militia Wikipedia”, which would be inconsistent with its actual use and the community’s idea of the trademark.  It is the proper name of a project, and as such does not take an article.


2 Comments so far
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Where and how did the prefex “Wiki”….. of “Wikipedia” originate and become the idententifying mark of the popular online encyclpedia Wikipedia?

Comment by Victor Couture 12.26.08 @ 12:15 am

Wikis have been around since 1995; the word comes from the WikiWiki bus line in Hawai’i. Wikiwiki is the Hawai’ian word for ‘quick’ (see “Wiki”).

Comment by metasj 12.26.08 @ 12:55 am



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