A Word for Wednesday: Mac

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Come rain or come shine, you need a Mac.

This week’s word for Wednesday is an interesting example of both strong brand identities and of diachronic language change.


To most people over the age of 60, Mac refers to a type of rubberized waterproof raincoat first sold in 1824. The coat is named after its fabric invented by the Scotsman Charles Mackintosh.

Mac is also used as slang for a Scottish person, such that irrespective of their first and second names, outside Scotland, a Scotsman might be nicknamed Mac.

In contemporary use, the word Mac refers to the Apple Macintosh computer. This usage has superseded both of the uses above, even in the rainy Scottish climate where Mackintoshes are imperative!

Interestingly, all three uses have shortened the word to one syllable, which is a common informal diminutive to a full name: Nicholas – Nick, Joanna - Jo, Daniel - Dan. This familiar shortening tends to imply affection and friendship. This considered it is unsurprising that a brand would capitalize on the diminutive form

Diachronic change is the development of pragmatic use of a word: when someone says Mac what comes to your mind?

By the looks of the weather, I’ll be using all three types of Mac today….

Hugh ‘Mac’ MacDermott


17 Apr 2013
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