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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Commercial (n. from Latin com meaning together and merx or merci meaning merchandise or ware) is defined by two major definitions. The first, being public broadcasting through various media paid for by the revenue from broadcasting advertisements. [1] The second is engaging with or related to commerce. [1] We will return to the first definition later in the discussion. The key word for the second definition is commerce and coincidentally, it is also the root word for commercial.

During the late 16th century, two very different definitions of commerce emerged. One definition was intercourse or sex, as used by William Shakespeare in “Twelfth Night”. Richard Hooker in “Of Lawes Eccl. Politie” used it more specifically as intercourse with God and spirits. Both of these are unrelated to the modern definition. The more relevant definition of commerce is the exchange between men of products of nation and art. [2]

A more up to date definition of commerce is the exchange of capital. We return back to the word commercial, which is then “to be related to or engaged in the exchange of capital.” Using a variant of capital, capitalism, commercial then, is founded upon the ideal of capitalism. Capitalism is an economic system in which production and distribution of goods are determined by the free market. [3] The primary mentalities of a capitalist society are private ownership and self-profit. The driving force behind profit is consumerism, a doctrine advocating a continual increase in the consumption of goods as a basis for a sound economy. [4] Commercial is then defined as: related to or engaged in the advocating of continual increase in the consumption of goods. Returning to the first definition of commercial and looking at the context of today’s culture, it becomes evident that the broadcasting done by commercials is used to propagate consumerism. As a result, commercial’s two definitions are linked to each other. The first literal definition of commercial becomes a component of the system which contributes to the second definition: the advocating of consumerism.  

1. "Commercial." Home : Oxford English Dictionary. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/37081?redirectedFrom=commercial#eid (accessed November 21, 2012).

2. "Commerce." Home : Oxford English Dictionary. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/37073#eid8735085 (accessed November 21, 2012).

3. "capitalism, n.2 : Oxford English Dictionary." Home : Oxford English Dictionary. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/27454?rskey=dMbPhG&result=2&isAdvanced=false#eid (accessed November 21, 2012).

4. "Consumerism." Home : Oxford English Dictionary. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/39979?redirectedFrom=consumerism#eid (accessed November 21, 2012).

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