Commodify
Posted: 27 June 2011 01:03 AM   [ Ignore ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2014
Joined  2007-02-19

I came across this word today in an on-line New York Times article ("Google’s War on Nonsense” by Virginia Heffernan, in “Opinionator”, June 26, 2011). It was used in the sense of “turning something (in this case, writing) into a commodity”. The article was about an alarming-sounding phenomenon called “content farms” which I’d never heard of previously. They were described as a way of generating advertising revenue by methods which render Google less useful, diluting it with garbage. Happily, Google appears to be fighting back.

I’m not sure I like “commodify”, though I suppose I’m stuck with it. Has anyone seen this word used elsewhere? A hundred years ago, i would have taken it to be a euphemistic description of what civilized people do with their body wastes.  Tempora mutantur.......*

* “Times change”

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 June 2011 02:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  650
Joined  2011-04-10
lionello - 27 June 2011 01:03 AM

...A hundred years ago, i would have taken it to be a euphemistic description of what civilized people do with their body wastes.  Tempora mutantur.......*

* “Times change”

The more things change, the more they stay the same...

It seems as though “commodify” has been around awhile:

“...Ideologically, slaveowners understood well that they were entitled to commodify fully all the capabilities of slaves, as part of the search for maximum economic and social returns on their investment. Properly understood, this meant, ...”

--The blind African slave, or, Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, nicknamed Jeffery Brace, by Benjamin F. Prentiss [Benjamin Franklin], 1810

[ Edited: 27 June 2011 02:53 AM by sobiest ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 June 2011 03:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4740
Joined  2007-01-03

Actually, that quote is taken from the introduction to the 2004 edition. It’s a quote from another secondary source; I’m not sure of the date, but it’s recent.

Commodify isn’t in the OED. Commoditize is the more usual verb, which the OED dates to 1977.

The concept, if not the verb, of commodifying literary works is an old one. It’s very big in Marxist criticism. Although this appears to be a rather specialized use of the concept, wherein the work is turned into a product that is essentially completely exchangeable with any other, as in commodities like agricultural or mineral products.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 June 2011 03:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  650
Joined  2011-04-10
Dave Wilton - 27 June 2011 03:26 AM

Actually, that quote is taken from the introduction to the 2004 edition. It’s a quote from another secondary source; I’m not sure of the date, but it’s recent…

Whoops.  I missed that.  Thought I had checked…

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 June 2011 04:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  650
Joined  2011-04-10

I did find this [see page 387]:

“...By denying the privileged status of literature and the literary artifact, the Absurdist critics simply push the impulse to commodify everything to its logical--and absurd--conclusion. ...”

--the absurdist moment in contemporary literary theory, By Hayden White, Contemporary Literature, Vol. 17, No. 3, Directions for Criticism: Structuralism and Its Alternatives (Summer, 1976), pp. 378-403

Edit: sp.

[ Edited: 27 June 2011 08:58 PM by sobiest ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 June 2011 04:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3493
Joined  2007-01-29

The earliest use I’ve been able to find is 1968, from the Proceedings of the Regular Meeting, Vol. 150 (1968), of the Trans-Missouri-Kansas Shippers’ Board, p. 16:

This is what we have to take down to the actual man who is doing the job, the one who is commodifying the car…

But it’s very hard to investigate; virtually all the Google Books hits are falsely dated, either new introductions to books dated by their original publication or issues of journals dated by their date of origin.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 June 2011 05:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  650
Joined  2011-04-10
languagehat - 27 June 2011 04:26 AM

...virtually all the Google Books hits are falsely dated, either new introductions to books dated by their original publication or issues of journals dated by their date of origin.

I noticed this^^. 

I recall that Languagehat once advised, “...Just remember that the dates are unreliable, especially for periodicals (they often list all issues under the year the first one was published), so double-check as best you can...”

Is this recently a bit more severe? 

One curious thing is that for my search results there were also very many obvious misspellings.  A few samples:

...Must not the interfering of our neighbours in that manufacture be a loss to us? I answer, that when any commodify is denominated the staple of a kingdom, it is supposed that…

...Hence, the quantity of molasses was increased in 1795, and the interference of spirits distilled in the United States, from that commodify, with spirits distilled from…

...rendered it, in all cases, an accurate measure or standard of marketable value ; for the value of that commodify…

...the government was regulating foreign trade, buDding ships, running the railroads, and issuing bonds; and commodify prices had reached a level…

...As Mrs. Selwin explained, turning at last, with a look of long-suffering, from th~£ abundant board, “Rice is a commodify which, for several reasons, goes a long way."…

With the last two samples, the “D” for the “il” and the “th~£” for the “the” offers a clue.  “t” sometimes read as “f” and “e” sometimes as “~£” --OCR errors?  I bet they do it on the fly.  DCR?  (is there such a thing, Digital Character Recognition?) If anyone has it, google does.  Maybe all those false positive reverse Turing tests like “captcha” will finally pay off.

[edited for clarity]

[ Edited: 28 June 2011 12:03 AM by sobiest ]
Profile
 
 
   
 
 
‹‹ It is what it is.      HD: 1917 Words ››