Mavens and memes – the answers

Posted by on July 15, 2010

Did you understand the words and phrases at the end of yesterday’s post? They are a little tricky because they need a little cultural background:

Blogosphere refers to all blogs and their interconnections. The idea is that all blogs form a social network.

Maven comes from the Yiddish word meaning ‘expert’ or ‘someone knowledgeable in a particular subject’. The word has been popularised by Malcolm Gladwell to describe individuals who influence large numbers of people. A good example is Gladwell himself though he unconvincingly denies this.

Meme is another term popularised by Gladwell; this one comes from evolutionary biology and is usually first attributed to Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene. A meme is basically an idea that quickly becomes popular as it spreads by imitation. An internet meme could be less grandly described as a rumour, though it also describes a commonly held idea. Political bloggers often use the word meme as a shorthand for topic.

Inside the Beltway comes directly from American politics. The Beltway is a ring road around Washington DC and something inside the Beltway is likely to interest political insiders but not the general public.

Inside baseball describes technical matters only of interest to specialists. Baseball references are commonplace in the blogosphere: a politician hits a home run or strikes out (while Californian criminals famously have three strikes or convictions before they get a mandatory life sentence). He/She is also wary of curve balls or attacks from unexpected directions.

More on the language of American politics in my next post. In the meantime, you can have a look around on this blog.

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