Friday, March 18, 2005

To Blog

I can verb any noun you give me, said my undergrad linguistics teacher. She may have exaggerated, since I'm not sure how to use sky or desk as verbs. Still, I can think of many terms that prove her point: to email, to google, to code, to spam, to TeX, and to blog. People create new tools and feel dissatisfied with the current vocabulary to describe how the tools are used, and the language grows. But while I can motor or barrel down the road, or perhaps keep on truckin', I cannot (yet) Hummer or SUV down thr road. I must remain content to drive Hummers or SUVs -- or rather, to be wary of others who do so. Why is it possible to Google someone but not to Hummer him?

There exist adequate old words to describe some of our new activities. I can write or search instead of e-mailing or googling; and while to spam has a certain flair with it's evocation of potted meats, to harrass also describes the primary activity of spammers. A journalist writes or reports: he does not journal. In an opinion piece, he may editorialize; the new verb indicates a specific type of writing, one which is supposed not to mix with reporting. Why, then, does a blogger blog? The noun blog describes a format which can be filled with many types of writing; superficially, to blog is little better as a verb than to legal pad. Perhaps to blog seems natural because to log is an accepted, related verb; but we do not say that a web designer webs, and to web seems an adequate verb, too.

I write to question, not to criticize. Etymology is fascinating, and the histories of new words are sometimes as interesting as the histories of the old ones.