It's not just a Beatles record! White Album is also a tautology! Album, you see, traces all the way back to the Proto-Indo-European root helbos, meaning "white". How did this happen? Well, after a muddle in Proto-Italic, helbos became the Latin word albus, which also meant "white" (and you may recognize it as Dumbledore's first name). This became the Latin word album, or "white writing tablet", which, when paper was brought to Europe, transitioned into album, "list of paper", since paper was white and you wrote on it, I suppose. Eventually, it came to mean "a collection", of writings and (by the mid-nineteenth century) photos, still a modern definition. Not too far of a stretch. Finally, when the gramophone records started coming out post-World War II, people decided to name them albums, an instance of metonymy, since the sleeves those records came in were white sheaths reminiscent of those on more old-fashioned albums. Funny how things work out in etymology!
Adam Aleksic is a 221-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd