This time I’ll be writing something more connected to history than computers, but it has pretty much to do with modern technology, anyway.
If you do a Google search for the journal title “Archives of European Sociology”, you’ll get a long list of citations to a journal by that name, like “Brubaker, Rogers, Ethnicity without Groups, Archives of European Sociology, 18, 2 2002”. Now, my wife, who happens to be a historian, tried to find this journal, as she wanted to see an article published there. Based on the huge amount of citations to the journal found by Google, she of course assumed, that the journal was well-known, widely distributed, and logically, available at the local university library. To her big surprise, she was not able to find the journal in any library database — the closest match was the Archives européennes de sociologie, and international publication, that also had an english title (European Journal of Sociology) and a German title (Europäisches Archiv für Soziologie). That obviously could not be it, as the Journals home page at the publishers site very clearly stated the title in all three languages.
But, in the end, a comparison of the references to the mysterious journal with the table of contents -data at the publishers site did show, that this was, after all, the mysterious Archives of European Sociology. Why on earth was it always referred to under this name, when the publisher, and the journal itself, very clearly used the english title European Journal of Sociology? The thing remained a mystery, until today, when she found one potential explanation for this misnomer:
More and more, the scientific journals have been adopting the convention, that the headers and footers of the pages include, in addition to the page number, the authors name and a part of the title, also a reference to the journal itself: the name of the journal, the year, volume and number of the current issue, and the pages covered by the article in question; most often this information appears in the footer of the first page of each article. This is a wonderful habit, as it saves the nerves of so many academics fervently copying articles and trying to sort the piles of copies later. The Archives européennes de sociologie had adopted this policy already in the yearly 1980’s. And you know what? They did not want to print the whole name of the journal in the footer, as it was rather long, and would have forced the footer to extend to the second line; instead, they used an abbreviation — also a venerable habit. The abbreviation was Arch. europ. sociol.
One can just imagine, how the academic sorting his piles of photocopies finds this interesting article he did remember having somewhere, is convinced of its value, and decided to cite it in his/her next work. But where did the article come from? Luckily the necessary information is included in the photocopy itself: “Arch. europ. sociol.” Now, if you’re mother tongue is English, and you have this article written in English from a journal, the name of which is abbreviated thus, what is the logical English name that can be constructed from that: “Archives of European Sociology”.