Broadcasting: A Word Evolves, As We Do

Digging into history can reveal a lot about how life evolves, right down to the words we speak. When most of us hear the word “broadcast,” we undoubtedly think of radio, t.v. or (trying to keep ahead of the curve here) podcasted electronic programming. I certainly did.

But some of you readers may recall a post I did last fall about the aftermath of a windstorm in the Poway Valley in January of 1896. I quoted from a newspaper account that reported “Several barns and other outbuildings were overturned or scattered broadcast…”

That use of the word led me to Merriam Webster and the discovery of another, older definition of “broadcast,” which is “to scatter or sow (seed or something similar) over a broad area….”

Sure enough, a check back at other issues of the Poway Progress newspaper bore out that definition. For example, an 1894 column about how to resurface a road with gravel advised that “the broken stone should be spread broadcast with shovels to insure a thorough mixing….”

I also found that historical usage in a book by Kumeyaay scholar Michael Connolly Miskwish in his 2006 book, Sycuan: Our People. Our Culture. Our History. In describing the agricultural society of the original indigenous residents of San Diego County before the coming of Europeans, Miskwish notes that a “traditional harvest practice” included “the burning of the fields after harvest, and then hand-broadcast reseeding.”

Food for thought, you might say.

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