Hip People Using Unhip Language

As The Curmudgeon writes this he is listening to an alternative rock radio station and has just heard, for what appears like the umpteenth time in just the past few days, a radio DJ refer to a song as a “track” – as in “We’ll be back with a new track from Imagine Dragons (that’s what’s playing as The Curmudgeon writes this) right after this.”

Track? Really?  Track?

For those of you old enough to remember vinyl, a “track” was something you could see, with your own eyes, on a record.  Each song on a record album occupied its own “track” with space between each song, so songs were often referred to as “tracks.”  Radio stations that didn’t play only top forty songs, increasingly prevalent as FM radio came to prominence in the 1970s (when The Curmudgeon’s parents bought the only new car they would purchase during his childhood in 1968 it came without FM radio, which at the time was still just an option) boasted of playing “tracks” from an album, as opposed to putting a 45 on the turntable.  What they meant was that instead of playing the Bruce Springsteen song “Born to Run” from a 45, they were playing the “Jungleland” track directly from the (vinyl) album. Later they would play tracks from 8-track tapes that were also physically designed to have distinct “tracks” between songs that you advanced to by hitting a button or lever – no need to deal with a delicate turntable tonearm.

The Curmudgeon thinks all this “track” business is about trying to sound (you should pardon the expression) cool, that people who announce songs on the radio – a taxing job that no doubt requires a great deal of skill and training – somehow think it’s very uncool to announce that they’re about to play a mere song but think they’re very Dr. Johnny Fever if they say they’re about to play a track.

Actually, that’s a good way to end:  with a reference to Dr. Johnny Fever that’s no less an anachronism than referring to a song as a “track.”

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