Thomas Edison demonstrated the first device for recording and reproducing sound in 1877, naming his invention after the Greek words for sound and writing the “Phono-graph”. When the Columbia Company produced a similar machine a few years later they showed a fine contempt for the rules of Greek grammar by inverting Edison’s trademarked name and calling their version the “Grapho-phone”. Both of these worked by etching soundwaves into a spiral groove on the side of a cylinder made of hard wax.
In 1888 Emile Berliner invented a machine that recorded sound in a groove starting at the edge of a flat disc and spiralling into the centre. Showing a fine contempt for both grammar and meaning, he called his device the “Gramo-phone”.
Curiously, whilst ‘phonograph’ has come to mean all types of record player in America, in Britain it is only used to describe those early cylinder players – all flat disc players are called ‘gramophones’.