BLOG UGLY?

The estimable Invisible Adjunct has an entry expressing her distaste for the word “blog.” This is a distaste that many other people seem to share, but I’m at a loss to account for it. Phonetically, it’s a perfectly standard English word, stop + liquid + vowel + stop; I fail to see how it’s any uglier than, say, “block,” “plug,” or “log.” To my mind, it’s a clear improvement over “weblog,” which is harder to use as a verb or combine with other words. It’s a nice short English monosyllable. True, it’s new, and the new always makes people nervous, but I would think the blogging community would embrace their very own novelty. At any rate, I wanted to get some feedback: any thoughts on why the word is disliked? If you dislike it, how do you feel about the comparison with the phonetically similar words I mentioned?

Comments

  1. I share the visceral, automatic distaste and as much as possible try to use “weblog” when I can. Maybe there are associations with “clog” (as in “clogged arteries”) and/or “blob”?

  2. In UK English ‘bog’ means toilet, and ‘bogroll’ toilet roll, so it does have visceral connotations, in a way…

  3. No, it’s not a pretty word, but I think its inelegance is a second-order dislike. The real problem is its hep-cattish vogue–guys throwing it around like it’s the secret password or something.
    “You blog?”
    “Nope. No weblog yet.”
    “You’ve gotta get a blog. Why aren’t you blogging?”
    “Commenting on your weblog suits me fine.”
    “Get your own blog already.”

  4. I do rather strongly believe the Law of Velar Villainy is at work. Not the whole reason by any means (I think Jason is right), but part of it.
    http://www.yarinareth.net/caveatlector/archive/week_2002_12_08.html#e001144

  5. I like it. I imagine Rowan Atkinson saying it. It’s neither over-refined nor too serious. Perfect.

  6. I like the word too, actually.
    Something that just struck me, LH, is the extent to which the word is thought of as malleable because it’s a recent neologism. The “well, if we don’t like it we can just change it; it’s not really part of the language yet” thing.
    To what extent is this true, I wonder? Who has studied the success of prescriptive attempts to eradicate (specifically) neologisms?

  7. Good point, and good question. I doubt such attempts have ever had much success (has anyone ever stopped using a word because William Safire deprecated it?), but it would be good to have actual data. Anyone out there know?

  8. I find “blog” a little bit ugly (though I still like it–ugly in an amusing way). For what it’s worth, I also find “plug” and “log” ugly, “plug” slightly more so.
    This next bit probably won’t make any sense at all, but here goes:
    I think my problem is that the whole word feels sort of… gooey and ill-defined, like it needs a sound somewhere in there that’s harder or sharper. “Clog”, “brog”, “brag”, “brig”, and “brok” all sound better to me, at least in that respect, and “mlog”, “bwog”, and “blug” are even uglier. “Mwug” would be particularly bad, but it’s so ugly that it’s funny. Perhaps someone who knows more about phoenetics can see a general pattern in this.

  9. “mlog”, “bwog”, and “blug” are even uglier
    For the first two, that’s at least partly because they’re not possible English words—they violate the phonotactics of the language. Initial ml- is common in Slavic languages, but impossible in English; same goes for bw- and Bantu vs. English (of course, we’ve borrowed “bwana,” so it does exist in the language, but it still wouldn’t be used in a non-borrowed word).

  10. I readily admit that it’s completely irrational, but I find the term ugly.
    “Block” is fine. “Log” is okay so long as it refers to wood. I don’t like “log” in relation to food: the “Christmas log” is just icky: I have to say “buche de Noel” even if that sounds pretentious, because “log” sounds inedible.

  11. The last comment mentioned the word “block” and this is what I thought of. The word “blog” may be associated with the words “block” and “fog” and “bog” as in “bogged down,” all connected with writer’s block. But affection for names tends to grow with affection for their objects.

  12. ‘block’ and ‘log’ are fine, you’re right. but the combination in ‘blog’ is really ugly. i always use ‘weblog’ or ‘log’ for the noun and ‘log’ for the verb.
    Dorothea, your Phonaesthetics post was freaking amazing and i totally agree with everything you said.
    ‘it’s a recent neologism’. is that in contrast with an old neologism? :-) (i understand there are such things – just struck me as funny)

  13. I agree with Moss. I think “weblog” should be used in print, and “blog” only when necessary to reproduce or imitate speech, like “yeah”.
    You can show your support for the word “weblog” by linking to my weblog.
    http://otipl.blogspot.com/

  14. Department of redundancy department, sorry, Sean. :)

  15. I’m not sure I agree with the premise that “ugly” words should be shunned in writing or speech. I, myself, find the term blog to be a “cute” and a perfectly usable neologism. Perhaps because it’s a portmanteau word, I feel more indulgent to it, but I wouldn’t use its cuteness as a criterion for its exclusion from English. So why use beauty and ugliness in the same way? I think our language is big enough to admit a few extra words, no matter how little they live up to the exacting standards of prescriptive phonaesthetes. It’s not as though, this recent immigrant tried to muscle in on some perfectly suitable native word. The folk have deemed weblog too long, on aesthetic grounds no doubt, and have chosen blog in its stead.

  16. Well said, Jim. And since he’s too modest to do so himself, let me point others to his excellent entry on the subject. Here’s an excerpt to admire:
    “I’m also not sure I’m convinced that the words for crow and goose in Germanic (or Original Teutonic as Murray would have it) are onomatopoeic. Animals have a way of sounding different in different languages than one would expect. I love the sound that Danish pigs make, øf, which sounds softer than our harsh oink, but besides which neither sounds anything like any porcine snufflings I heard down on the farm in my youth.”

  17. I found it interesting that the first English words you thought of were “block,” “plug,” or “log.” When I first saw the word “blog,” I immediately though of a something that had been clogged up. I suppose most people wouldn’t want to think of their blogs as “blocked,” “plugged,” or “clogged up.” :) When I learned that “blog” was short for “weblog,” that ended my confusion, but my initial impression was amusing.

  18. no doubt, jim, that there’s room for more words. i like new words. i like smashing words together like the Germans. we’re all descriptive here, right? i’m not going to use it, and i’ll argue my case, but you should make your own decision.
    i once had a voice professor who said ‘you should never let an ugly sound come out of your mouth’. i couldn’t agree less. ugly sounds, and words, can be reams of fun. i use them often. ugly sounds and words can even become beautiful.
    except for ‘blog’ :-)

  19. I love slang, and use “blog” frequently. It is sort of an ugly-sounding word (the comparison of “plug” and “log” above was apt). One writer I know says “web-log,” but that seems to me on about a parallel with saying “E-mail.” It’s interesting that a weblog can also mean 1) websites which are primarily collections of links 2) websites which are primarily on-line diaries 3) a combination….what do people mean when they say “blog”? (Ah, the use of a St. John’s College education….)

  20. what do people mean when they say “blog”?
    Well, I don’t believe in this wishy-washy “what do people mean” stuff. I believe in going to the source. Let’s see what Aristotle had to say about it in the course of his attack on the Pythagoreans in the Metaphysics:
    “All the same, as we have said, the causes and principles which they describe are capable of application to the remoter class of websites (topoi tou histou) as well, and indeed are better fitted to these. But as to how there are to be updates, if all that is premissed is the Linked and the Unlinked, and Present and Past, they do not even hint; nor how, without updates and change, there can be generation and destruction, or the activities of the links which traverse the web. And further, assuming that it be granted to them or proved by them that blogs (blogoi) are composed of these factors, yet how is it to be explained that some are lesser, and others greater? For in their premisses and statements they are speaking just as much about virtual as about mathematical objects; and this is why they have made no mention of markups (anasemeia) or links or other similar phenomena, because, I presume, they have no separate explanation of virtual things. Again, how are we to understand that number and the modifications of number are the causes of all being and updating, both in the beginning and now, and at the same time that there is no other number than the number of which the universe is composed? Because when they make out that Opinion and News are in such and such a region, and a little above or below them Controversy and Disharmony or Flames, and when they state as proof of this that each of these abstractions is a number; and that also in this region there is already a plurality of the magnitudes composed of number, inasmuch as these modifications of number correspond to these several regions,—is the number which we must understand each of these abstractions to be the same number which is present in the virtual universe, or another kind of number?”
    At this point he goes off into a discursus about numbers and never really gets back to blogs, but I think we have a pretty good analysis there. I might also point out that in Greek blogos is phonesthetically related to phlox, phlogos ‘flame,’ which gives rise to an entirely different set of responses and analogies. I hope they covered all this at St. John’s; young people these days don’t even seem to realize that the Greeks had blogs.

  21. LH: I had my doubts about your copy of Aristo’s Beyond Physics, but after tripping over this web page (http://www.asxetos.gr/viewlinks.asp?catID=303) I gather the Greek term for blog is blog. (I love macaronic texts!)

  22. LH — ROTFL! Post that comment as its own entry; it’s priceless!

  23. I hear and obey.

  24. vincent says:

    blog is a a rather a dull word for the beauty of these sites.
    But it does satisfy the the Baltic-Saxon connection for brevity.
    My thinking is that BLOG is in reality a mneumonic for the meditteranean romantic connection to jive up the Saxon simplicity. My first thought was :Bountiful Locations of Organised Graphitizers. Maybe someone can summon up Livy for the correct Heraldic translation

  25. I’m a bit late to this post, so I’ll probably get the last word. I can’t say I judge words on how they sound (well, sometimes) otherwise I’d be avoiding “fork” and “upholstery”; nor do I judge them on other words they sound like (I like “snort” but dislike “sport”). But for me, I don’t care for “blog” because everyone and their dog blogs, including me, and I don’t want to blog any more than I want to mosh or be phat, and it probably wouldn’t matter whether it was called “faloo” or “zeela” I still wouldn’t like it because it’s just such a geeky “in” thing to do, and I know that it’s only a matter of months or days that blogging becomes as deeply embarrassing as The Information Super Highway. Probably.

  26. BWAH! Yes, that cried out to be its own splendid entry. (Alexander the Great’s Livejournal: “Mood: Upbeat. Music: Conqueror’s March”)

  27. The other day, my wife described the success of our toilet-training two-year-old as “a perfect little log.”
    Fratboys will say “I’ve got to dump a log.”
    Given similar evidence above (“I don’t like ‘log’ in relation to food: the ‘Christmas log’ is just icky”; and “In UK English ‘bog’ means toilet, and ‘bogroll’ toilet roll,”) I feel pretty certain that the reason the word sounds ugly to me is the toilet association.
    clog (a clogged toilet); log (feces); bog (decaying matter, UK slang for toilet). It occurs to me that if “blowing chunks” is fratboy slang for vomiting, “blowing logs” (soon reduced to “blog,” “blogging”) would be the analogous form for defecation.
    cf. snot, plug; blowing nose, another toilet function.
    I have to go blog now.

  28. I don’t like “Blog”. I think it’s ugly, and it sounds like some kind of…biological waste product to me.
    The RSS provider I use refers to a daily “scraping” of my blog by their software. This, to me, sounds like an unfortunate medical procedure: “I’m sorry, Mr. Jones, but we’re going to have to scrape your blog.”
    As for use as a verb, I don’t see why “log”, “journal”, or just plain “write” can’t do the job that “blog” does.

  29. Hope you don’t mind–this is in part a fan letter, as I really enjoy your blog, being a wordsmith of a sort myself, and a lit teacher. I kind of went whacko on the subject of ‘blog is ugly?’
    It is titled “Blogistics, or On Blogalinguistics”
    http://resplendantRRR.blogspot.com
    Though I am a great lover of languages that have elegant vowels and mahvelous dipthongs, I myself am still quite fond of the term “blog.”
    Thanks!
    AP

  30. “I d’eclai-uh, I loves the word blog! It has that clandestine feel, that slightly crepuscular, wee hours of the night with too many cigarette butts (would that I could but I can’t any more) in the ashtray, a little too much amontillado, the heat not functioning quite properly–the tone sepia, the sounds brittle then still. Ahh! a selection of Andre Breton or maybe Vallejo on a low table…the smell of onions, garlic, forbidden flesh planked and sizzling… In the background, Astor Piazzolla lurches into Milonga para Tres… poor mad Bud Powell enters his Invisible Cage, Like Someone in Love…”
    Well said, sir! Let the purists scoff; we will roll happily in the dank compost heap of the English wordhoard, picking out the most redolent specimens for especial attention. Crud! Blog! Sssschmuck! Say it loud, say it proud!
    For anyone wanting to further attend the good Mr. Populi’s vox, here‘s the direct link. I particularly commend to your attention his entry “Gift(s)” of viernes, junio 06, wherein is recounted the cabbie’s tale of “The Woman Who Spoke Very Little” and the founding of Cote d’Ivoire. And AP, you are welcome to go whacko here on LH any time!

  31. Hi. I coined the diminutive “blog”. I wrote about that experience, and here is a relevant passage:
    As I wrote Keith Dawson after he added “blog” to Jargon Scout, “I like that it’s roughly onomatopoeic of vomiting. These sites (mine included!) tend to be a kind of information upchucking.

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