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Friday, June 21, 2002

Geoffrey Nunberg: On Calling A Blog A Blog, And Roiling Prose

Geoffrey Nunberg writes:
I did a piece on blogs a couple of months ago. After it ran I got an email from someone who objected to my use of the word, particularly when it's used to describe the records that people post on the web of their daily thoughts and doings. I should have called them "e-journals," she said. I could see her point, but blog is a syllable whose time has come. Who can resist that paleolithic pizazz? It's the tone you hear in a lot of programmer jargon, in words like kluge, munge, and scrog. That's how insiders demystify the technology. It sets them apart from the digital parvenus who lade their speech with technical-sounding language. When we use blog, it's as if to say we're all geeks now.
He goes on to consider the shortfalls of prefixes like "e-" and "cyber-", and concludes,
[A] lot of the things that have emerged online are genuinely novel, but then why strain to find their offline counterparts? That's the beauty of "blog." You could call these things virtual journals, e-clipping services, or cyber-Christmas-letters. But why can't they just be unique in all their bloggy essence?
In another recent piece, Nunberg nails one reason I find blogs more compelling than journalism these days - they speak a more direct dialect:
You don't hear roil a lot in everyday conversation. It isn't really a word of American English at all -- it belongs to the patois of that exotic alter-America that we read about in the newspapers, a world populated by strongmen, fugitive financiers, and troubled teens, where ire is always being fueled until violence flares, spawning hatred and stirring fears until hopes are dashed.
Both are excellent essays, go give them a read. I guess I enjoy Nunberg's take on these things so much because he's a linguist, and a good deal of linging goes on around here. [Via Fresh Air - oops, must get that form filled out] (Regarding American English, I'm sure the rest of the English speaking world eschews this sort of transgression. If not, ire is fueled and fears are stirred.)

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