A blob from a bog

Posted by on October 03, 2011

 

Last week, as part of online English month, Laine asked Macmillan Dictionary Blog contributors and readers to name their favourite online English word. The results were pleasingly diverse, with very little overlap. But one word received multiple mentions, so I decided to blog about it. It’s the word blog.

Kerry Maxwell, author of the BuzzWord column, wrote that blog has “dipped its toe into just about every word formation process”: clipping, blending, derivation, compounding, and conversion (see the post for more on these processes). Adam Kilgarriff found it fun and useful, and noted that it “sounds all Anglo-Saxon”. Janet Gough also sang its praises, seeing in it “the creativity of the English language” and hearing in it “something quite phonetically appealing”.

These contributions surprised and gladdened me, because blog is a word whose sight and sound I’ve always liked but have seen subjected to severe scorn and criticism for as long as it’s been around. A Google search of the precise phrase “I hate the word blog” returns 100,000 hits at the time of writing.

Why do so many people hate blog so much? Browsing some of the commentary online, I found all sorts of reasons and some recurring themes: “It sounds wet and tired”; “It makes my skin crawl”; “a very stupid word “; “too much like bog”; “rhymes with … nothing pleasant”; “It feels demeaning”; “one of the clumsiest words of recent invention”; “ugly word. Reminds me of snot”; “I won’t even dignify it by typing it”; “HATE IT HATE IT HATE IT.”

Blog resembles blob and bog in particular, and both of these signify wet, messy, unruly things. I like both words, but I can see how some people wouldn’t. Bog, as well as being slang for toilet (hence the pun in blogroll), has negative connotations such as in the pejorative Irish slang bogman or bog man, meaning “unsophisticated person from the countryside”.

One thing I don’t like about blog is when it’s used to mean blog post, as in “today’s blog”. I think it’s confusing and unnecessary, and that everyone using it should switch to the way I prefer! Copyediting conducted a survey on this last year, and most respondents felt as I did. Maybe in a few more years, our preference will prevail and the blog = blog post form will slide into disuse.

How do you feel about blog? Is it a useful word, and fun to say – or does it, as one critic quipped, sound like “a blob from a bog”?

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Comments (9)
  • Stan:
    My initial reaction to “blog” was “Yuck!,” but I’ve mellowed with age(in more than one way!). As shorthand for “web log” it makes perfect sense, and it follows all the rules of how we make words in English. And yes, the feel of the word connotes certain unmentionables(although in the US “bog” has never meant what it means in Ireland – simply a marshy area with perfectly- preserved ancient Danes, among others). I agree with you about the redundancy of “blogpost,” but again, we do it all the time; what are we to make of “THE hoi polloi”(or is it simply elitist to assume that well-educated English language monoglots will know that “hoi” is the Attic Greek nominative plural of the definite article?). Electronic mail quickly became “e-mail,” and now it has become, or is becoming email. Thus goes the language.

    Posted by Marc Leavitt on 3rd October, 2011
  • Ha – so blog has already acquired a second sense (=a blog post – the message, not the medium), and the ‘pedants’ (in this case Stan) are already objecting to this ‘incorrect’ usage!!
    Corpus data (and data from Google Ngrams) suggests the move from ‘weblog’ to ‘blog’ was almost immediate, but pockets of resistance remain. Similarly, I have letters from Oxford University Press from not very long ago, where the letterhead gives their phone number, then their ‘facsimile’ number (this continued long after most people had even stopped using faxes).

    Posted by Michael on 3rd October, 2011
  • I think the word “blog” is great, though I share your dislike of “blog” to mean “post”. When someone says that they have a new blog, I’m not sure if it means that they moved to a new host or have a new account or if they just wrote a new post.

    Posted by Jonathon on 3rd October, 2011
  • Marc: One of the great advantage of blog over web log is that its simplicity makes it very reusable, adaptable and inflectable. Had web log or weblog been retained instead, it’s unlikely they would have been so productive. I’m glad blog won you over! As for hoi polloi, I’m inclined not to fuss over it. With or without a definite article, either is OK with me — though in formal contexts I prefer the more proper version.

    Michael: More than two senses if you count the verb form. I’m sure you noticed that I didn’t call blog = blog post incorrect; I just expressed a different preference. Like you, I’m curious about the ‘pockets of resistance’ that have held on to weblog — and indeed faxes. I sent a fax recently from a suburban print store, where an employee told me they catered to 10 or 20 fax customers a day. The technology has taken a back seat, but it’s not moribund quite yet.

    Jonathon: That happens me too. Normally it’s clear enough that a single blog post is meant, but it makes it awkward when someone has an entirely new blog. The ambiguity is unnecessary.

    Posted by Stan on 3rd October, 2011
  • […] Macmillan Dictionary blog, Stan Carey dissected why people hate the word blog. At Separated By a Common Language, Lynneguist offered up an untranslatable British English word, […]

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  • Hi Stan,

    Sincerely, the word blog sounds practical, easily pronounceable, perfect for me. Btw I love blogs, sophisticated ones of course such as Macmillan’s! Some of those on the UK media count on my regular visits…

    Thank you Stan.

    Posted by Maria Costa on 11th October, 2011
  • Hi Maria, I’m glad we agree! It is a very practical word, plain in the best sense.

    Posted by Stan on 11th October, 2011
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