To privish - Meaning & origin

James Brandon

Senior Member
English + French - UK
"To privish" appears to be an AE term used to refer to publishing, when a publisher intentionally suppresses a book that might be embarrassing and that they may have published in the first place. They might do that by printing as few copies as possible, for instance, so that it is instantly out of print. Or the book may be made scarce by buying large quantities of it in the shops, once it has gone out to retail outlets...

I would like to know a bit more about this term. The logic behind the move and the exact meaning are not absolutely clear to me, I must say!

Thanks
 
  • JamesM

    Senior Member
    It sounds like a manufactured word, an artificial antithesis of "publish (make public)" being offered as "privish (make private)". I may be completely wrong, but it is not a word I've ever heard and I would guess that no one outside of the publishing industry would know it if it's a term of the trade.

    Here is one quote I found on the internet (found at http://www.epinions.com/content_85009862276 ):

    Another interesting side is how publishing houses choose which books become available. Although an author might get a contract on a book, if the publisher decides the book is controversial(as Gerard Colby found out when he wrote, Dupont: Behind the Nylon Curtain, 1974, the publisher may decide to "privish" the book: the contractually required amount of books will be published, but that doesn't mean many people will see them--some are not printed correctly(so they will be destroyed--the destroyed books still fulfill the contractual obligation), are shipped late, all of these are legal, just not very ethical
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    Thanks and you have clarified the meaning - it is clearly a "niche" term used in relation to publishing. I understand better the mechanism behind it, twisted as it may be. At first, I could not quite see why a publisher would strive to suppress a book he/she is publishing! To privish as in "private" (as opposed to public/publishing) is probably a good guess...
     
    I wonder if "privish" comes from "privy" at all?
    Privy (define: privy, google search):
    hidden from general view or use; "a privy place to rest and think"; "a secluded romantic spot"; "a secret garden"
    toilet: a room or building equipped with one or more toilets
    outhouse: a small outbuilding with a bench having holes through which a user can defecate
    privy(p): (followed by `to') informed about something secret or not generally known; "privy to the details of the conspiracy"
    wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    There could be a link - whether genuine (i.e. etymological) or fabricated (i.e. based on analogy and the coining of a new "sexy" term)... This was implied (i.e. the latter) by one contributor.
     
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