Phil Gyford


Monday 19 January 2004

PreviousIndexNext Weblogs, unexplained

Once upon a time the word “Internet” had to be explained whenever it was used. At first the word would only appear in articles about Internet itself (it often occurred without its definite article), then it would crop up in gradually more mainstream stories, but still requiring explanation: “a world-wide network of computers”. I’m now enjoying watching “weblog” or “blog” going through the same process.

In much of the mainstream press we began with a succession of articles, over several years, explaining weblogs. Then weblogs played a supporting role in a few news stories and while they required a few words of explanation they were becoming part of the real world. Now we’re beginning to see the word dropped in with little clarification. Twice, for example, in Saturday’s Guardian.

The first was still a bit embarrassed about venturing out alone, and required the expository company of the now fearless “internet”: “Many [believers in sleep avoidance] document their experiments on internet weblogs.” The second occurrence was in a very good article about Howard Dean, so its audience is likely to have met it before, and it’s in the context of the campaign’s website, but still: “Skip the continuously changing official blog, and the unofficial bloggers who hang out morning, noon and night in the forums…”.

So “weblog” isn’t quite an independent beast, but it’s getting there in papers like the Guardian which is probably as close to the bloody edge on this kind of thing as the mainstream gets. Which isn’t to say weblogs are familiar to everyone: just before Christmas I was interviewed by a reporter on a local newspaper about Pepys’ Diary and he had, understandably and reasonably, never heard of “weblogs”. But one day it will be as common as “website”, or the now slightly dated “homepage”, and hopefully then it will lose some of its magical aura.


I remember starting at The Times, in 1999, when we still had to add in an explanatory clause after the word 'Internet'. It became such a thing, that for a long time we'd talk about the 'Internet Comma', as in, "I'm going to look it up on the Internet comma the global network of computers blah blah blah."

The day we were told that we didn't have to do that anymore was one of great rejoicing.

And then we had the argument about not capitalising Internet. And then the one about the hyphen in e-mail.

And then! And then! Then we got a letter from Yahoo, telling us that we *must*must*must* use the exclamation point after the company name. Hence sentences like: "A spokesman for Yahoo! a company based solely on the Internet, the global network of computers known most popularly for the World Wide Web application, today said that..."

The past was shit, I tell you.

Posted by Ben Hammersley on 19 January 2004, 10:23 pm | Link

One of the games Shrinks play is word association, the Shrink says "Frankie Vaughn;", I say the first word that comes into my head, in this case it's moonlight - one of Frankies best known songs but a friend of mine says 'porn', Frankie Vaughn - Porn. See it can be revealing. Now the shrink says 'Internet' and you say....

Posted by Richard Hyett on 21 January 2004, 9:18 pm | Link

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