Netflix Introduced A Generation Of Americans To The Word ‘Queue’

Senior Editor
03.14.14 111 Comments


There’s an interesting article over on The New Republic about how Americans, who 10 years ago would’ve said “line” or “line up” exclusively, have begun saying “queue.” The difference? Netflix, of course.

Back in Netflix’s early years, users baffled by the word “queue” used to call customer service to ask, “What’s my kway-way?” recalls Netflix communications director Joris Evers. […]

In the past month alone, the New York Times has used “queue” in reference to Fort Lee traffic, SXSW registration, and patrons of a San Francisco restaurant. Just last week, the Washington Post used it into an otherwise unremarkable story about new security lanes at Reagan National Airport. […]

In Google searches originating in the U.S. since 2004, the word most commonly associated with “queue” is “Netflix,” though it might get some competition: Hulu has introduced its own “queue” function, and Amazon has adopted the term, too, inviting users to advertise the books they plan to read on a “Book Queue.” In 2011, a New York Times reader asked the site’s “Gadgetwise” blog how to create a “queue” of YouTube clips. […]

“Queue” has been commonplace in computing, in both British and American English, since the 1960s. “What you’re seeing is the surfacing of tech jargon,” said Grant Barrett, co-host of A Way with Words, a nationwide public radio show about language. “‘Queue’ has long been used in computer-programming to refer to a series of processes, tasks, or actions that happen, or will be run, one after another… Outgoing mail is added to a message ‘queue.’ Calculations are ‘queued’ to be run by a computer’s processor.”

I think the key is that “queue” and “line” have slightly distinct meanings that make “queue” useful. If you’re American and you say “queuing up” for tickets, or describe a line outside a pizza joint as “a queue,” you’re just being obnoxious as someone who spent a semester in England and now it’s “mate” this and “mate” that. But when it’s a list of tasks, or things in a specific order, like DVDs, “queue” is just the most accurate word.

But don’t even get me started on people who say standing “on” line instead of “in” line. You’re all mentally ill.


Around The Web