The Muzak

kuleshov

Senior Member
Spain Spanish
My dictionary tells me that "The Muzak" is quiet music played in shops, restaurants, and other public places.
I was wondering whether this is a word people actually use in colloquial English or rather they use "background music."

What do you think?:confused:

Cheers
 
  • Lexiphile

    Senior Member
    England English
    If I'm not totally mistaken (and I did work for just such a company in the 1960's), Musak was the name of a supplier of the machines and continuous tapes used to play background music. The machines were installed in shops and restaurants, for a fee, of course.

    Like so many other brand names (Kleenex, Hoover, you name it), it has become the common term for such music. I would be surprised if the company still exists (and NO I haven't checked in Google!).
     

    kuleshov

    Senior Member
    Spain Spanish
    Thanks a lot, especially for the etymology:)

    By the way, when you phone a company and they tell you to hold on, you sometimes get music on the phone while you are waiting; can we use the same expression for that kind of music? Or do you use a different word or expression.


    Cheers
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    Muzak are still going, although I doubt that they still use those massive phonograph discs! :)

    "Muzak" is still in use to generically refer to background music. It's also used as a disparaging term for bland "wallpaper" music generally.

    We usually call the music on telephones "music on hold", or "telephone hold music".
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    In AE the common terms are Muzak and background music. There are other more disparaging terms, such as dentist office music, which rather adequately describe much Muzak.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    In AE the common terms are Muzak and background music. There are other more disparaging terms, such as dentist office music, which rather adequately describe much Muzak.
    :) Another common term is "elevator music."

    Muzak is still going strong and generates significant royalties for those fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to be included in their play list.
     

    PMS-CC

    Senior Member
    By the way, when you phone a company and they tell you to hold on, you sometimes get music on the phone while you are waiting; can we use the same expression for that kind of music? Or do you use a different word or expression.


    Cheers
    I use "hold music," although I usually put a vulgar adjective or two in front of the phrase.
     

    veracity

    Senior Member
    To #4.
    "I took out my mobile and called the internet company.
    I shall spare you a full account of the sweaty half-hour that followed - the endless selecting from lists of options, the queuing, the listening to muzak, ..."
    R. Harris: The Ghost

    By the way, when you phone a company and they tell you to hold on, you sometimes get music on the phone while you are waiting; can we use the same expression for that kind of music? Or do you use a different word or expression.

    After this British author it seems evident we can.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Convoluted answer coming up, veracity;)

    I would use "muzak" only for the background music you get in restaurants, shopping centres etc.

    I don't think I have a word for the even-more-annoying (in fact far-more- annoying) music they play while they keep you waiting on the phone, with the seconds and the £ ticking away.... I see that other people use "[telephone] hold music", but it's not a term I'm familiar with.

    So here's my theory: that Harris used the probably-not quite-accurate term "muzak" to describe 'telephone hold music' because (1) like me, he didn't have a word for telephone hold music; and (2) "muzak" conveyed the sense of mindless frustration he wanted to convey.

    I said it was going to be convoluted!
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I'd use muzak--oddly enough, I wouldn't think of capitalizing it despite the fact that I know the word's origin and have read about the company--to refer to any bland, canned background music. If you mention muzak, though, I'll think about the music in a shopping mall, in an office building's waiting area, or especially that encountered in an elevator.

    I've noticed Muzak-brand equipment apparently in still in use on a couple of occasions: you may see a metal plate, something like the faceplate on a wall socket, with the label Muzak Co. or the like.
     
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