I’m not the only one who misremembers the title of Marshall McLuhan’s famous book about how electronic technology is reshapting patterns of social interdependence.
As I’m packing up my books, I come upon a paperback book dated March, 1967 entitled The Medium is the Massage, by, yes, Marshall McLuhan. Well, dagnabit, lookit that — its MASSAGE, not MESSAGE, as so many of us misremember.
What a difference a vowel makes.
Back in 1967 this paperback book cost me $1.45. Ah, those bygone days.
I’m not misremembering that it’s Father’s Day. But my Dad died more than 20 years ago, and I’ve posted about him many times before.

7 thoughts on “misrembrances

  1. “In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, of any extension of ourselves – result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.” (McLuhan 7) Thus begins the classic work of Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, in which he introduced the world to his enigmatic paradox, “The medium is the message.” But what does it mean? How can the medium be its own message?

  2. Yes, I linked to that quote in my post. That does not alter the fact that McLuhan’s book’s title is “The Medium is the Massage.”
    Personally, I understand the connection between medium and message, although McLuhan seems to indicate “massage” by his stataement about the “personal and social consquences of any medium…the new scale that is introducted to our affairs by each extension of ourselves…” The medium massages the message.

  3. Yes, well… “The Medium is the Massage” was a popular title that McLuhan released to capitalize on the public’s familiarity with his groundbreaking work in “Understanding Media” wherein he averred that “The medium is the message.” Pretty straight-forward: First he said that the medium is the message. Time magazine told the world that that’s what he said. We all scratched our heads and wondered what that meant exactly and had less than profound cocktail party conversation about TV being a “cold” medium. McLuhan’s agent said, “Marsh, you gotta get a paperback out there. Your fifteen minutes of fame are running out.” And the rest is dead trees on your bricks and boards.

  4. I defer to your erudition, not having followed McLuhan’s career except for, apparently, buying his after-the-fame-fact paperback.
    I’ve got to get back to packing up my bricks and boards.

  5. The actual story behind the title of the slim 1967 volume is this:
    The McLuhan’s were in New York, while Marshall was doing his sabbatical year at Fordham (and having brain surgery). The draft of what was to be called The Medium is the Message went off to the typesetter and the galley proofs returned. The typesetter had mistakenly substituted an “a” for the “e.” Marshall took one look at the erroneous title page and exclaimed, “Yes! Of course! The media work us over like a good massage!”
    This story was told to me by Eric McLuhan in the kitchen of his mother’s home in Wychwood Park, Toronto.
    Using his technique of probing clichés, we also get:
    The Medium is the Mess age.
    The Medium is the Mass age.
    Elaine, it’s not that the medium “massages” the message; the medium IS the message. It is we (as we are the content) who are massaged, worked over, and otherwise changed, by the media, that is, the various things, tangible and intangible, that we conceive and create.
    There’s lots more: Come visit at The McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology.

  6. When faced with a choice between believing a charming anecdote or a cynical construction, I’ll usually pick the cynical construction, especially when academics or crack whores are involved.
    No offense.

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