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June 26, 2008
It's too late now, of course. The damage is done. But tell me: why did we allow an ugly word like "blog" into our nice language?

Yes, I know it's a contraction of "web log" -- no beauty contest winner, either, by the way. But were we so pressed for time that we couldn't spare a tenth of a second to say the whole thing? And so bereft of imagination that we didn't ask ourselves if there might not be a more attractive term already in use that could be pressed into service?

Well, it's clear, you know, whoever coined the awful term might say to defend it. Yes, and so are the instructions on the enema bottle you bought yesterday. But language is about more than just clarity, although it should never sacrfice clarity for beauty, and language used beautifully never does. So why couldn't we have called them "online journals" or "web diaries" or even "eCommentaries"? Those would have been clear, too, and they wouldn't have made us sound like Neanderthals when we talked about them.

Or like victims of some dreadful medical condition, like a stye or a cyst or a wen. I've got a blog now, someone says. Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that, I want to answer, have you seen a doctor?

But no. "Blog" it is. And its writer is a "blogger," which sounds like some kind of lumberjack, or maybe an especially loutish football fan. He or she inhabits the "blogosphere," which sounds like a piece of hardware for use in undersea exploration. Ugh. New words, or old words used in new ways, don't have to be ugly. "Web" itself is a lovely word, and completely apt: a gossamer but complex net of communication and ideas, settling itself with kind efficiency over the whole world. What lives in the net may be kind or it may be malevolent, but the web itself is lovely.

But it's too late. Language can't be protected from change without also barricading it against new ideas, and that way lies the madness of seeking to live in an age other than one's own.

Love your blog! someone says to me, and my soul winces a bit. Oh, you mean The Farm, I answer, not yet willing to surrender.
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