Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A short history of "blog"

In my classes this week we have been talking about different types of definitions. I have looked at several types such as persuasive and theoretical definitions, but today I want to look at Stipulative Definitions. A stipulative definition is a proposal to assign meaning to a newly introduced word or symbol. This happens quite often in technology and science, though it is by no means limited to those two domains. One of the interesting features of many of these types of definitions is that although they start off as a proposed label for a particular concept or idea, the particularly successful labels will eventually migrate into the dictionary, and take on the status of a lexical definition.

An example of such a word is "blog." This is what is known as a portmanteau word, which is a word that is made by squishing two previously existing words together. In the case of "blog" the two words were "Web log." The term "Web log" was first coined by Jorn Barger on December 17, 1997. Then, in April or May of 1999 Peter Merholz jokingly shortened the term to "blog." The term then became popular with the public when Pyra Labs named their new web application Blogger, which was the precursor of the software I am using to write this very blog. At some point in the last decade, the word "Blog" became so popular that it was incorporated into almost every dictionary. I actually couldn't find an exact date because a Google search for blogs and dictionaries tends to turn up blogs about dictionaries rather than the specific information I was looking for.

In any case, this is a nice example of a word that started out as a stipulative definition, and then was so popular that is became a lexical definition.

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