Nov 042003

George Wallace, standing athwart the history of language yelling “Stop!”, proposes to replace “blog” with “web journal.” He enlists David Giacolone, who argues:

Nurturers and caretakers of language do not have to accept the mindless process that begat the word “blog” and its progeny, even though it may be too late to keep teenyboppers, the hipster insiders, and the trivial users of web log technology from chronically belching “blog” and “blogging.” We can still choose meaningful nomenclature — terminology that best suits the actual format of our web sites and that actually communicates a meaning. “Blog” is the equivalent of slang: yes it belongs in the dictionary, but it should not crowd other (and better) terminology for the same concept.

I’m not clear who died and left David a nurturer and caretaker of language, but when I appoint one, you may be sure he will not use the phrase “nurturers and caretakers of language,” or misplace adjectives either. (I’ve got no quarrel with “hipster insiders” myself; it’s those hipster outsiders who get my knickers in a twist.)

As for “choosing meaningful nomenclature” — actually, we can’t: too late. Neologisms for old things come and go, but a blog is a new thing, and with new things first out of the gate nearly always wins. In diction wars you have to pick your battles carefully. If you must complain, complain about something that drains meaning from the language. For years I objected to the coalescence of “amazing,” “awesome,” “remarkable,” and “phenomenal,” as if English were short on synonyms for “good.” This battle was worth fighting because it was over shades of meaning; there is no English word with the precise meaning of “amazing” except “amazing.” But popular usage has bulldozed me, and it has bulldozed David and George, for better reasons.

What’s wrong with “blog” anyway? It is short. It is more or less Anglo-Saxon. It lends itself easily to back-formations for writing a blog (no ugly “-ize” required) and for the author of one, not to mention felicitious derivatives like “blogrolling” and less felicitious but still useful ones like “blogosphere.” The dispute over whether the verb is transitive will sort itself out in time. “Blog” reminds me a great deal of one of the best neologisms of the 20th century, “blurb,” coined by Gelett “I never saw a purple cow” Burgess. It rolls off the tongue less easily, and lacks its onomatopoeic qualities, but has all of its other virtues.

I look forward eagerly to George’s, if not David’s, future blogging; less eagerly to his description of it.

(Update: David Sucher comments. George Wallace replies. Aaron Armitage comments. And I sold Terry Teachout.)

  5 Responses to “To Blog, or To Web Journalize?”

  1. "Blog" and its variants are here to stay. You’re right about that. And I agree that one should choose battles carefully when defending the language. But I don’t think the words you mention have lost all use, or lack synonyms. "Astounding" is close enough to "amazing." An, er, amazing sci-fi magazine went by that name. "Awesome" is more difficult to match, and awe a rare emotion; but the word won’t provoke automatic snickers if it has appropriate context.

  2. This is not a new issue; Terry Teachout was looking for a new word a few months ago I put my two cents in here:

  3. Add "fantastic" to that list.

  4. And "fabulous"

  5. At least all of this further abstracting of words for ‘good’ is starting to punch some meaning back into the word ‘good’. Good is a better compliment now than it was five years ago.
    Of course, we have blogs, which are a dime a dozen, and we have good blogs, which are rare.
    godofthemachine is a good blog even with dummies like me commenting.

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