This is not a blog

01Oct08

Now, I’m no William F. Buckley, Jr. — for instance, I’d never disinherit my bastard grandchild and put a clause in my will literally declaring him dead to me — but I do share his appreciation for the careful use of the English language.

At the moment, I’m reading Bill Bryson’s Troublesome Words, which differs from his other work in that it’s essentially a style guide compiling a list of just what its title says it does. As such, it’s not exactly a gripping cover-to-cover read, but it’s useful if you want to know what the difference between lacking something and being bereft of it. (If you’re bereft of something, you used to have it, but don’t anymore; however, if you lack something, you may have never had it, but definitely don’t now.)

First published in 1984, Troublesome Words was updated and expanded earlier this decade, but, as careless speakers and writers show unceasing ingenuity in getting themselves in trouble with words, it must necessarily be incomplete. For example, Bryson might have elaborated on why as such isn’t a proper substiture for therefore. (As such must refer to an antecedent noun or noun phrase to make any kind of sense; refer to its usage in the previous paragraph for a correct example.) 

And because the most recent edition of Troublesome Words predated the explosion of blogging, here’s another example that’s been annoying me: the usage of blog where post is meant.

Here’s an example I heard in a recent podcast of Quirks and Quarks. As a man of learning, Bob McDonald ought to know better, yet, imploring listeners to check out the website, he said, “You can subscribe to our podcast, sign up to our newsletter, listen to our audio archives, and check out our latest blog.” That would be fine if Quirks and Quarks had an ever-growing series of different blogs; however, it just has the one blog, which is updated every now and then.

As another example, I’ll often see a post on a hockey messageboard saying something like, “I wrote a blog about how not sending Luke Schenn back to to his junior team would wreck his development”. But unless the writer took the extraordinary step of registering a URL such as www.sendlukeschennbacktojunior.blogspot.com to make a one-time post to that effect, he probably didn’t. He probably just wrote about it on an existing blog.

Blog is a contraction of web log. A log is a record of performance, events, or day-to-day activities. In nautical terms, it charts things such as a ship’s rate of speed or daily progress; similarly, a web log might record various recent interesting sites visited. However, a blog can also be a personal journal, just as James T. Kirk’s famous captain’s log went beyond simply recording the Enterprise’s position in space and rate of warp speed.*  A blog entry or blog post is like a page from that journal. The blog refers to the journal itself. Writing a blog is an ongoing endeavor involving maintaining a website and continually adding short updates to it that may or may not fit into a general theme. Writing a blog post, on the other hand, is a one-time act involving writing an update about a specific topic, one that may or may not fit into a site’s general theme. A blog and a blog post are not the same thing; the latter is part of a larger whole.

There. Go forth and sin no more.

* Consider the following example, from “The Corbomite Maneuver”: “Captain’s Log, Stardate, 1514.0. Was totally bullshitting about corbomite but aliens totally bought it! LOL! They were cool, though … got drunk with some ugly baby on tranya later.”



10 Responses to “This is not a blog”

  1. I don’t use the word “hero” very often, but you are the greatest hero in American history. I cannot stand the use of the word “blog” for post. I can barely take the word “blog” used correctly, frankly.

  2. 2 Question Mark

    Not to be outdone is my mother, who recently discovered how to get an MSN Messenger account, which she seems to think is ‘blogging’ whenever she sends a message.

  3. This is not a comment.

  4. 4 Candace

    Now that’s a Star Trek episode I want to see.

  5. 5 Riley

    I could’ve sworn it was carbomite, but Google is calling me an idiot.

    Fucking Google.

  6. 6 Peter Lynn

    Rob MacD: Considering you’re an actual, honest-to-God professor of American history, that’s some praise! And aren’t you doubly happy I didn’t say “honest to blog”?

    Question Mark: I may have mentioned this before, but I used to have an idiot boss who, when closing up shop for the night, constantly referred to turning on the security system as “downloading the security system.”

    The Schroederist: In that it doesn’t offer any commentary, I guess I agree. But it is a response.

    Candace: It’s a real one, you know. It’s the one with an extremely young Clint Howard and an alien puppet that looks disconcertingly like Bea Arthur.

    Riley: Don’t take it personally. Google called me a limpwristed fag the other day. Google’s been drinking again.

  7. 7 Candace

    While we were living together, my friend Jolee’s grandma called her up in Hong Kong to inform her that she was emailing her a George Foreman grill. Cute.

  8. Man, that misuse of the word blog is one of my big pet peeves too. Bravo, sir, for daring to be the little guy taking on Big Solocesim.

  9. You just hit the Online World with a neologism bomb. Well played, sir.


  1. 1 The abstersion of the recrement « Man vs. Clown!

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