In a recent blog entry, I mentioned a pet peeve regarding the non-word “alot.” And I mentioned that I have many pet peeves. One that many businesses make involves a homophone that carries three different spellings and three entirely different meanings.
The biggest misuses of it these days show up when companies establish a presence on the Internet. Those presences are what are known as “websites,” and yes, that’s one word, no hyphen, and no space, thank you. People who should know better (and don’t) will often use “web cites” or “web sights.” Those are bad, bad things, and if I were emperor, they would carry lengthy prison sentences and perhaps just a smidge of torture. (I’ll ignore the fact that some readers are thinking that a lecture from me on the subject would qualify as both.)
A “site” is a physical location, even in cyberspace. That’s why a place on the web is known as a “website.” And yes, it began as two separate, sometimes hyphenated words, but popular use has now converted it to a single world. A “sight” is something you have seen, and “cite” as a noun is a colloquially shortened version of “citation,” or what you put in footnotes back in school. (As a verb, it means making reference to something, as in “The Senator cited the Onion article as proof that the President was really an extraterrestrial being.”)
So if your new Internet home features photos from books about Civil War battlefields, you can say that your “website cites sights of historic sites.”