Excuse me while I blog

Blog. Blog.

Say it five times in a row, preferably out loud: Blog. Blog. Blog. Blog. Blog. Has there ever been an uglier word? You don’t say it so much as you expectorate it. As though it carried some foul toxin that you had to get out of your mouth as quickly as possible. Blog! I think it must have snuck into the language in disguise. Clearly, it was meant to mean something very different. I’d guess it was intended to be a piece of low slang referring to some coarse bodily function.

Like: “Can we pull over at the next rest area? I really have to blog.”

Or: “The baby was up all night blogging.”

Or: “Oh, Christ, I think I just stepped in a blog.”

But somehow it escaped its scatological destiny and managed to hitch itself, like a tick, to a literary form. Who’s to blame? According to Wikipedia, which, needless to say, comes up as the first result when you google blog, Peter Merholz is the man whose name shall live in infamy. While Jorn Borger introduced the term “web log” – on December 17, 1997, to be precise – it was Merholz who “jokingly broke the word ‘weblog’ into the phrase ‘we blog’ in the sidebar of his blog Peterme.com in April or May of 1999. This was quickly adopted as both a noun and verb.” A passing act of silliness for which we all must now suffer. Thank you, Peter Merholz.

It doesn’t seem fair. No other literary pursuit is saddled with such a gruesome name. No one feels ridiculous saying “I am a novelist” or “I am a reporter” or “I am an essayist.” Hell, you can even say “I am an advertising copywriter,” and it sounds fairly respectable. But “I am a blogger”? Even when you say it to yourself, you can hear the sniggers in the background.

Imagine that you, a blogger, have just become engaged to some lovely person, and you are now meeting that lovely person’s lovely parents for the first time. You’re sitting on the sofa in their living room, sipping a cape-codder.

“So,” they ask, “what do you do?”

A tremor of shame flows through you. You try to say “I am a blogger,” but you can’t. It lodges in your throat and won’t budge. Panicked, you take refuge in circumlocution: “Well, I kind of, like, write, um, little commentaries that I, like, publish on the Internet.”

“Little commentaries?”

“Yeah, you know, like, commentaries.”

“About what?”

“Well, generally, they’re commentaries that comment on other commentaries.”

“How fascinating.”

You’re getting deeper into the mire, but you can’t stop yourself. “Yeah. Usually it starts with some news story, and then I and a whole bunch of other people, other commentarians, will start commenting on it, and it’ll just go from there. I mean, imagine that there’s this news story and that a whole bunch of mushrooms start sprouting off it. Well, I’m one of those mushrooms.”

Face it: even “fungus” is a nicer word than “blog.” In fact, if I had the opportunity to rename blogs, I think I would call them fungs. Granted, it’s not exactly a model of mellifluousness either, but at least its auditory connotations tend more toward the sexual than the excretory. “I fung.” “I am a funger.” Such phrases would encounter no obstacle in passing through my lips.

But “I am a blogger”? Sorry. Can’t do it. It sounds too much like a confession. It sounds like something you’d say while sitting in a circle of strangers in a windowless, linoleum-floored room in the basement of a medical clinic. And then you’d start sobbing, covering your face with your hands. And then the fat woman sitting next to you would put her hand on your back. “It’s all right,” she’d say. “We’re all bloggers here.”

20 Comments

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20 Responses to Excuse me while I blog

  1. I suppose next comes “Fung you” :-)

  2. “I started off with the soft stuff, just an occasional social comment. But soon I was posting, and trackbacking. Then, I hit bottom – linkbaiting“.

    “It’s OK. We’ve been there”.

  3. Not quite sure where that came from, Nick, but glad it did — hilarious. And totally true.

  4. Bah. Nonsense. It’s a good, solid, reliable word. It’s the presence of the word “log” in thereā€¦ :)

  5. Chris_B

    Funniest thing I’ve read this week, possibly this month. I agree 100%

  6. Oliver Widder

    But talking about blogging can sometimes be quite useful.

    See the History of Web 2.0 – Part 6.

    Bye,

    Oliver

  7. finn

    blog, blog

    it’s big, it’s heavy, it’s wood

    blog, blog

    it’s better than bad, it’s good

    If only that were true. My friends have all heard the “that is the ugliest word ever” rant a few times, so I’m glad to see I’m not alone.

    Nick, are you telling us between the (blog)lines that you just got engaged?

  8. Nick Carr

    Uh, no.

  9. I thought it was all about riffing on pics of your cat.

  10. Hilarious. You know I’ve thought the same thing before, but I kinda figured that it was so common that it was beyond being an ugly word by now. Until I ask someone if they blog and they act like I’m asking if they have a medical condition, then it makes me start using the term “weblogging” instead. You know, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m going to start using the term “weblog” instead, it does sound way more respectable than blog, I might be able to say it with a straight face at family functions. Much less Dr. Suess-like. Anyway, great post.

  11. Jack

    Well, blog is at least more efficient than “www”. Three letters, nine syllables (For web’s sake, even “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, which weighs in at 14 syllables, is only 5 heavier), and using a letter that’s hard for non-english speakers to even say.

    And even once it’s uttered, you’ve only heard the part that is obvious and that doesn’t even need to be said. Not to mention how easy it is to trip up when uttering a URL, because it’s so easy to forget which w you’re at in the sequence.

    I can imagine that the invention of the abbreviation is partially responsible for global warming, due to all the extra inhalation it requires to be said, with all the resulting exhalation adding to the co-2 in the atmosphere. Perhaps Al Gore, who invented the Internet and thus the web, can help us solve this problem.

    Great article, as always!

    Jack Greenwood

  12. Hear hear! I can’t stand the word “blog” or any of its horribly mutated offspring (blogger, blogosphere, vlog…)

    I always just say “I’m a writer.” Either that or, “Uh, I do stuff with computers,” depending on whether I want to get into a conversation or not.

  13. Soooooooo true I actually do not pride myself in engaging in the [unspeakable writing activity].

    Better to wait for people to find out by themselves.

    In my case, it may take quite a while.

  14. Funny piece. I enjoyed it!

  15. A few years ago

    I pointed out to the author of a site named “Blogos” what that word means in Lithuanian:

    “Blogos” in Lithuanian means “bad”, plural adjective, with about as many variations in context as English: “gone bad”, “badly behaved”, “feeling bad or ill”.

  16. ncarr2

    hi dad. nice article. i especially enjoyed the engagement comment.

    nora.

  17. If this post was a humorous attempt, its tough for me to personally appreciate it – I prefer Scott Adam’s blog over this anyday.

    If it was a sigh and shout in desperation, well, tough luck blogging, mate. Better luck funging.

    If it was an announcement of engagement (see ncarr2’s comment above), all the best!

  18. Nick Carr

    Scott Adams? That’s harsh.

  19. I was only just now pointed to your piece, and, yes, I’ll take full blame. For what it’s worth, I enjoy the sonic dissonance of the word. As I wrote in my post explaining the origin of the word, I like that “blog” sounds a bit like vomiting, since that’s what most blogging is, figuratively.

  20. Nick Carr

    Straight from the horse’s mouth!

    Thanks.