Originally a satellite was a follower. Astronomers applied the term to smaller bodies orbiting about planets, like our moon. Then we began launching artificial satellites. Since few people were familiar with the term in its technical meaning, the adjective “artificial” was quickly dropped in popular usage. So far so bad. Then television began to be broadcast via satellite. Much if not all television now wends its way through a satellite at some point, but in the popular imagination only broadcasts received at the viewing site via a dish antenna aimed at a satellite qualify to be called “satellite television.” Thus we see motel signs boasting:


People say things like “the fight’s going to be shown on satellite.” The word has become a pathetic fragment of its former self. The technologically literate speaker will avoid these slovenly abbreviations.

*At least motels have not yet adopted the automobile industry’s truncation of “air conditioning” to “air.”

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