Monday, November 22, 2010

Around the Word

Today the BloGG is traveling around the world and backwards in time to see how writing, reading, and words change—and how they stay the same.
  • Robert E. Lee didn't have Gawker, but if he had, contends historian Adam Goodheart, it might have looked something like this. At Disunion, Goodheart's New York Times blog, he covers the Civil War day by day, describing events and republishing newspaper coverage in daily posts—an exercise as much about media as about history. Like blogs, Goodheart says, the 3,700 newspapers of the era (many of them daily—or even twice-daily!) "rewarded the people who could be the most outrageous." The colorful invective and vivid, grotesque details of battle in those papers appealed to the reader's emotions in a way that seems less Washington Post than Huffington Post. Hear him discuss the project on NPR's On the Media and share your thoughts: has Goodheart made you rethink the War Between the States—or the blogosphere?
  • Lonely Planet invites readers on a whistle-stop tour of the world's greatest bookstores, stopping in at historically, politically, and aesthetically notable shops around the globe. Among their picks? London's Daunt Books, which sorts its volumes by color, Paris's Shakespeare & Co, where stray bohemians sleep among the shelves, and Beijing's Bookworm, which boasts a rare cache of banned books (and a whisky bar). San Francisco's Beat hotspot, City Lights, is the lone U.S. pick. (Though, as the L.A. Times' Jacket Copy blog points out, the City of Angels made the cut when the Guardian did a similar roundup in 2008.) Have you visited any of these bastions of bibliophilia? Are there any bookstores you think should be on the lists?
  • "I wouldn't say that word if I were you—do you know where it's been?" Etymologies seem to matter more than ever now, as neologisms put down roots faster than they can be refudiated. Enter Etymonline, a free online etymology dictionary, compiled and copyedited by home-grown linguist Douglas Harper. Harper created the dictionary because he wanted to use it—and it's kept him busy ever since. Language maven Stan Carey reflects on Harper's project, and digs up an interview with the man himself over at Drunken Koudou. We decided to give Etymonline a spin, and suddenly "let's blog that" takes on a whole new color:

    "Blog": 1998, short for weblog (which is attested from 1994, though not in the sense 'online journal'), from (World Wide) Web + log. Joe Bloggs (c.1969) was British slang for "any hypothetical person" (cf. U.S. equivalent Joe Blow); earlier it meant "a servant boy" in one of the college houses (c.1860, see Partridge, who describes this use as a "perversion of bloke"), and, as a verb, "to defeat" in schoolboy slang.

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