YouTube

I can’t believe I never thought about this before, especially as I’ve already written about the origins of names of popular websites/social media. But I was mindlessly looking at my screen and saw YouTube written there.

This one’s not too hard to figure out if you’re of a certain vintage, or simply American. The You part, obviously is pretty straightforward: you can upload your videos to the website. But in what sense is it a tube?

In the sense that tube is an American-English slang term for television, though I think it’s waning in popularity. Of course, a television is not a tube, but they did use to contain tubes. Cathode-ray tubes, to be precise, which were featured in older TVs and projected images onto the screen using an electron gun, apparently. Even from the 1950s, tube quickly became a common informal name for the device in the United States. I suppose it’s catchier than cathode. And ray would just be confusing if someone in your family were called Ray.

So YouTube is basically a television for you, where you can share your own content. It’ll be interesting, even in ten years or so, if the website’s still active, if any young people will wonder where the name comes from, as they’ll probably have no idea about its origin, especially if they’re not familiar with American English. Probably not many will, as it’s very easy to accept a name based on old-fashioned slang without ever wondering where such an odd word comes from. I mean, I only thought about it now, and all I do is think about words!

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