I was recently in a distant part of the globe in which all magazines are called “Books.” The inhabitants of this world actually do use the word “Magazine”: they use it to describe what we call a “Catalog”.
Before you laugh at this unsophisticated tribe, I should tell you that half the people who drop off magazines for me insist on calling them “Journals”. To some people a journal is that book you got for Christmas, wrote in on New Year’s Day, and then tucked behind that set of weights you were also going to use, but other people insist journals are what they get in the mail. “Magazines” are those things other people read, including “People”.
If all the journals were coming from Hyde Park, I could understand this, but quite normal people seem to insist on reading journals as well. (I read journals only to find out what it was you wrote on New Year’s Day in that little diary with Hello Albatross on the cover.) I also get magazines which people record on their receipts as “Art Books”, but this is Income Tax Language and should not be taken as real language.
And, just to confuse matters, I should remind everybody that I went to library school (I get a small income for not revealing which one) where I was taught to call magazines “Serials.”
Of course I sought wisdom from the World Wide Webs, as we do in this century. And like other people in this century, I found the Word Wide Webs as clueless as I am.
“A periodical is something which is published periodically,” says a library website. “A serial is something which is published serially.” Yes, jelly bean fricassee, librarians do actually talk like this. That does explain the phraseology in this blog, but give me a break: it’s only been about thirty-five years and it takes a while for that M.L.S. to wear off.
We are put on earth to serve, so I will do my best to help sort this out. If it doesn’t elucidate matters, blame that M.L.S.
Magazine: a collection of material with a distinctive title, published on a more or less predictable basis: monthly, weekly, quarterly, etc. (That’s why some people call a magazine a “weekly” or a “quarterly”)
Journal: A magazine read by somebody with a college degree
Scholarly Journal: A thick magazine read by someone with two college degrees
Zine: A magazine read by somebody who has a college degree but doesn’t want anybody to know that
Newsletter: a magazine intended for a fairly narrowly defined group (Some of these, thanks to the Internet, have circulations in the tens of millions, because everyone online wants to be part of a narrowly defined group)
Catalog: a magazine with an order blank and prices on everything shown on the pages (as opposed to magazines, which often have an order blank, but only for more issues of the magazine)
Periodical: A magazine listed in the budget of an institution (Individuals who bother with budgets use the word “journal”)
Serial: A box with a tiger or spaceman on the front and a plastic toy inside, made hard to reach for all the sugary pellets it’s packed in
M.L.S.: Distinction awarded by the Magazine Lovers Society (Most Like Serials.)