Monday, January 14, 2008


Etymologically, the term encyclopedia results from an imperfect understanding of classical languages. So it's come down to us as a single word that we older folks at least used to associate with a shelf-full of heavy books. An archaic but occasionally amusing feature of which was that they were arranged alphabetically and (at least in some editions) on whose spine were printed ranges (what are those called?) that indicated the letters incorporated into that volume: A-Com, Lit-Pat, Ped-Rel, like that.

Even tho there isn't a standalone word pedia in any obvious incarnation in English (unobvious ones, probably), it's been treated as combinatory form for a long time. As of 1985, the Britannica people had a Micropoedia, a Macropoedia, and a Propeodia. (Dig those funky spellings, which I will note do not pass the spelling checker I'm using.)

These days, -pedia is flung about with abandon. On the first page alone of a Google search, you can find,,,,,, and "Compendium of knowledge" is yer core meaning here. (On the Web, no one knows that you're alphabetized, so that particular flourish in the original definition does not obtain.)

Probably the best-known online encyclopedia is Wikipedia, which combines the old term -pedia with the relatively new term wiki. For the 3 people left who don't know this, a wiki is a Web site that anyone can edit or contribute to. And for the 5 people left who don't know this, wiki is from the Hawaiian term wikiwiki, which means "quick."

The particles that go on the front of -pedia can address different components of the compendium. A common one is what, i.e. subject matter: cinema-pedia, design-pedia, mobile-pedia, info-pedia, the latter covering (one presumes) everything that constitutes information. Another possibility is where, i.e. where the pedia is found: e-pedia, referencing a no-longer-so-productive prefix for, basically, "online." The Wikipedia folks used a prefix for how, namely the manner in which the pedia is compiled.

All of this you know already, right? So. Not long ago I ran across a reference to, a Web site that "has been set up to be the definitive online resource for all things Whisk(e)y." The "all things Whisk(e)y" part is pretty clear from the -pedia part of the name. What's interesting to me is that Whiskypedia is a wiki. I think the name therefore has two, two, two times the connotative value of [something]-pedia alone: I think they are, um, leveraging the similarity of the sounds of wiki and whisky to signal that it's both a pedia and a wiki. If that's true (speculate among yourselves), does it mean that as we progress, the term -pedia might start suggesting not just a compendium of knowledge, but specifically community-contributed knowledge?

Update 3/22/08: Nicholson Baker in The New York Review of Books: "Someone recently proposed a Wikimorgue—a bin of broken dreams where all rejects could still be read, as long as they weren't libelous or otherwise illegal. Like other middens, it would have much to tell us over time. We could call it the Deletopedia." (source)

Update 4/14/08: The toonopedia.


jasmine said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
On Durgs said...

I really despise the use of "-pedia" as a suffix. It's like using "blog" as a prefix ("blogosphere"... ughgh) but not as bad.