airwaves » airways

Classification: English – questionable

Spotted in the wild:

  • LaVallee has found a real need to teach supermarket strategies, particularly with high profit items such as sugar coated cereals promoted continuously over the airways and single serving microwavables stocked high on the grocers, shelves. (Univ. of Rhode Island news release, Apr. 1, 1999)
  • It took Slobodan Milosevic four years of hate propaganda and lies, pumped daily over the airways from Belgrade, before he got one Serb to cross the border into Bosnia and begin the murderous rampages that triggered the war. (Univ. of Pennsylvania, Arts & Sciences newsletter, Fall 2000)
  • As Election Day looms just days away, Al Gore and George W. Bush are making their final pushes over the airways. (Swarthmore Daily Gazette, Nov. 1, 2000)
  • Media Bill opens the airways to worldwide ownership. (The Scotsman, May 9, 2002)
  • This expensive improvement in technology will ensure that beloved shows stay on the air in remote parts of the state, where full-powered religious stations have been granted licenses by the SCC that bump low-powered public translators off the airways. (Utah State Magazine, Summer 2003)
  • Back on the Airways for the First Time in 43 Years. (Johns Hopkins University news release, Oct. 16, 2003)
  • A white New Yorker who bought black station WOKS in Columbus, Ga., was able to use the airways to get civil rights protesters off the street in exchange for brokering a deal with the mayor to integrate city facilities, Ward said. (Univ. of Florida news release, July 14, 2004)
  • Yet that thought no doubt terrifies not just Fox, but every one of the (handful of) networks that now control our airways — which is why Fox’s first response to the Greenwald film was to warn other networks not to take it seriously, or risk “opening (themselves) to having (their) copyrighted material taken out of context for partisan reasons.” (Lawrence Lessig, published in Variety, July 14, 2004)
  • And I, myself, thought we had dodged a bullet. You know why? Because I was listening to people, probably over the airways, say, the bullet has been dodged. (Pres. George W. Bush, press briefing, Sep. 12, 2005)

Analyzed or reported by:

Marked questionable, since _airways_ may be an accepted variant of _airwaves_, arising out of usage in radio broadcasting. The _Oxford English Dictionary_ lists this sense in the entry for _airway_:

3. A radio channel (cf. AIR n.1 1c). U.S.

1934 in M. WESEEN Dict. Amer. Slang xii. 165. 1946 Baltimore Sun 10 Oct. 18/8 By that time a radio broadcaster had appeared with a portable microphone but Ted had nothing for the airways, even after most of the other players had taken their turns at the ‘mike’.

From _Merriam-Webster Collegiate_:

4 : a channel of a designated radio frequency for broadcasting or other radio communication

And from _Random House Unabridged_:

5. airways,
a. the band of frequencies, taken collectively, used by radio broadcasting stations: The news was sent out over the airways immediately.
b. airwaves.

It’s possible, of course, that the ‘radio frequency’ sense of _airway(s)_ started off as an eggcorn which then gained acceptance in some quarters. But it’s notable that many news outlets such as the New York Times chose to “correct” Pres. Bush’s Sep. 12, 2005 usage of _airways_ (as it appears even in the official White House transcript), replacing it with _airwaves_.

[Edit, CW, 2005/10/14: see also _parting of the waves_.]

| link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2005/09/13 |

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