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New word of the month
by Kerry Maxwell

dotbam also dot-bam, dot bam noun [C] /dt bm/
an Internet-based version of a successful high-street retailer

'Next came the newly revamped Thomas Cook website, which was praised for its reliability and "strong brand", making it the best of the dotbams.'
(, 14th May 2001)

In the 1990s the Internet revolutionised commercial enterprise, with the advent of web-based companies and a whole new economy set in cyber space. Suddenly the noun dot-com, a term coined in the mid nineties to refer to an online company, was a buzz word in business English. Predictably it didn't take long for established high-street retailers to get in on the act, wanting a corporate presence in both the online and offline business worlds. As well as walking into the department store John Lewis in London's Oxford Street, we could now sit in the comfort of our own homes reassuringly surfing in order to purchase wine glasses, sofas, curtains and whatever other household items we were interested in. There were now companies whose business activities were not purely high-street or Internet-based, but both. In 1999 a new coinage therefore emerged, the dotbam, aka the Internet-based version of an established retailer.

The term dot-com is of course based on the use of .com in the URLs of online companies. In the successive word dotbam, the -bam morpheme is an abbreviation of bricks-and-mortar. Though traditionally referring to a building, (i.e.: 'something made of bricks'), in recent years the phrase bricks-and-mortar has been used to draw a contrast between something which has an actual physical presence in the real world and something which only exists in a virtual environment. Hence its use in the term dotbam which, like the company it refers to, embraces both online and 'real world' concepts. Wordplay in the same context has resulted in the new phrase clicks and mortar to describe the business activities of a dotbam. Clicks, as in the click of a computer mouse, is used to refer to the online element, and mortar to the physical shop on the high street. Clicks and mortar is hence used in the description of a business strategy which combines both Internet-based commerce and physical retail outlets, as illustrated in the following citation:

'There was one piece of good news for Waterstone's this week, along with other clicks and mortar booksellers (i.e. those with both high street shops and an online offering) Clicks and mortar booksellers could pick up greater numbers of customers by dint of their online store's natural affinity with their high street stores '
(The Guardian, 8th December 2000)

The phrase clicks and bricks is a commonly used alternative form.

The explosion of online enterprise during the 1990s has been described as the dot-com boom. The dot-com boom heralded the birth of a whole new sphere of economic activity, often referred to as e-commerce, short for electronic commerce, the buying and selling of goods and services over the internet. E-commerce has not only had a major impact on our economy, it has also formed a linguistic breeding ground for a vocabulary of online business. Here are a selection of recent neologisms from a rapidly evolving business English:

e-tailer also E-tailer, etailer a person or organisation selling goods or services online. E-tailers attempt to improve on the activities of traditional retailers by operating with lower overheads and offering consumers the convenience of 24-hour shopping in their own home, whilst still supplying detailed product descriptions. The expression pure e-tailer is sometimes used to refer to an organisation which operates exclusively online. This contrasts with the expression mixed e-tailer, another way of referring to a retailer who operates on the clicks and mortar strategy of combining high street and Internet-based enterprises. The word e-tailer is formed from a contraction of the phrase electronic retailer. Derivatives e-tailing and e-tail also exist.

dot-bomb also dot bomb a failed online company, derived from a play on the term dot-com. In online business English, the phrase dot bomb is also sometimes used to refer to 14th April 2000, the day that the NASDAQ, the stock exchange which trades shares of technology companies, crashed, heralding the end of the dot-com boom.

dot-con a fraudulent online company, also derived from a play on the word dot-com. Derivatives dot-conned and dot-con also exist, most commonly occurring in passive structures such as Don't get dot-conned!

dot-commer a person who works in the Internet industry or who is employed at an online company, an obvious derivative of dot-com. This term should not be confused with dot-commie, a popular nickname for people who prefer Internet-based interaction as opposed to interaction in the real world. Dot-commie is also sometimes used to refer to people who think that everything on the web should be free of charge.

dot-snot an informal term used mainly in America to refer to a young entrepreneur who has become very rich by creating a dot-com company.

face-to-face sales retail sales in an actual physical retail outlet as opposed to through an online store. Interestingly, this term pre-dates the concept of Internet sales, having been used since the early eighties to refer to sales made in person as opposed to by telephone or mail order. With the advent of online shopping however, this phrase has assumed even greater significance in business English. The compound adjective/adverb face-to-face, originally used to generally describe the situation of being in the physical presence of someone else, is being used increasingly to draw a distinction between personal interaction in real life as opposed to interaction via an electronic medium such as e-mail or the Internet. In this context it is often abbreviated to F2F.

tri-channel a term used to describe a retailer that sells products in three ways (or 'channels'): through the Internet, through a physical retail outlet and through a catalogue.

B2B an abbreviation of the adjective business-to-business used in electronic commerce to describe transactions in which one company sells a product or service directly to another company. The abbreviation B2C is used in the same way to refer to business-to-consumer transactions, such as making a purchase at or the websites of popular retailers. Other permutations include C2C (consumer-to-consumer) in which a consumer sells a product or service directly to another consumer through websites like eBay, and B2B2C (business-to-business-to-consumer), which refers to transactions in which a business sells products or services to a consumer through another business as an intermediary.

For more information about new and topical words and phrases, read Kerry's Word of the Week articles on the MED Resource Site.