n one of his On Language columns for the New York Times, William Safire attempts to do a light piece touching on some of the new words and phrases growing out of the blogging phenomenon. The article bears his usual erudite stamp, but sadly, he gets several things wrong.
The word ping is generally considered to be an acronym for Packet INternet Groper (52,100 Google hits), not Packet INternet Gopher (1290 Google hits), as Safire would have it. If he really wanted to have fun, Safire could have pointed out that ping is one of many backronyms, acronyms constructed from words that match the letters of a word already in use.
As for his definition of meme, surely Safire must be familiar with Richard Dawkins and his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene. In that seminal tome, Dawkins defines a meme as a cultural entity–a song, a phrase, or an idea, for instance–that humans replicate by passing from one to another. It’s a perfect term for describing the way trends ripple across blogdom and so it is, indeed, often used by bloggers. Here is Safire’s description:
“A meme is a type of online chain letter,” explains Teli Adlam, a glossarian at blogossary.com, “where bloggers answer questions designed to give a quick overview of the blogger’s personality.” The author is then supposed to tag — that is, to induce — other bloggers to participate by answering the same questions. Tag, as a noun, is a descriptive label applied to an individual post.
He’s almost right about tags, although tagging may be applied to online photographs, videos, and podcasts, as well as blog posts. In touching on tagging and the remarkably popular social bookmarking site, del.icio.us, Safire oddly write:
Many bloggers strive to make it onto the del.icio.us front page (otherwise known as being popular).” This has led to the verbal noun or gerund deliciousing.
Deliciousing? Really? I must not run in the right blogging circles because I’ve never heard the term. Safire admits he collected most of what he reports in the column while blegging, or begging bloggers for information. His reporting won’t do much to remedy the perception of blogging as a poor source of information, but perhaps he had a bit of fun. For more fun, may we suggest that he try the Wikipedia and a few Web searches next time around.
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