Ask The Advocate: There’s an ‘app’ for what?

Quite some time ago the word “app” popped up; where it came from I know not. To me, this (alleged) word popped up suddenly, from nowhere. Not that this word is particularly important to me at this point in time, but it may, some day, pop up in “news”, and here I’ll be, left without any knowledge of the whereabouts, when abouts, and certainly why abouts, and printed in, of all places, my newspaper. So, can you let me know what you have on this word?

Simply put, “app” is short for “application software” and refers to operating systems that can be downloaded to smartphones, computer tablets, and laptop and some desktop computers.

The word has already made its way to The Advocate, most recently in a story about a rape case in which the accused and the victim met through a dating “app” called Tinder.

There’s even an Advocate app you can download, featuring the latest news from your favorite newspaper.

One of the earliest known usages for “app” was in 1985, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, in an Apple product called MacApp.

But the term may predate that product.

An OSNews story — OS stands for Operating Systems — in 2001 notes the term was used in job postings in Computerworld magazine dating back to 1981 and possibly earlier.

There was also a legal battle involving the word: a 2011 trademark infringement case in which Micros oft sued Apple, and Apple sued Amazon, over who had the right to use the phrase: “app store.” The lawsuits were later dismissed.

By that time, “app” had been added to the Associated Press Stylebook, which governs word style for member newspapers, including The Advocate. “App” was first listed in 2010. The stylebook update in 2012 allows the shortened word “app” on first reference, although AP editors still advise writers to explain the term in the body of their stories.

And the American Dialect Society voted “app” as its 2010 Word of the Year.

Ben Zimmer, who was then chair of the society’s New Words Committee, had this to say about “app” in the news release announcing the vote:

“App has been around for ages, but with millions of dollars of marketing muscle behind the slogan ‘There’s an app for that,’ plus the arrival of ‘app stores’ for a wide spectrum of operating systems for phones and computers, app really exploded in the last 12 months.

“One of the most convincing arguments from the voting floor was from a woman who said that even her grandmother had heard of it.”

Ouch!