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Germanic? Mais non, petit Walter!

Perhaps this is a little too silly to even discuss… but it’s still raining in California, and I just spent hours with spreadsheets, and who doesn’t love a good romp with a dictionary?

Walt is entitled to state his dislike for the term “biblioblogosphere,” to propose replacements, and to point to “a number” of people who agree with him on whether this term should be replaced. Frankly, I’m rather fond of synonyms–do I really have to choose between auto and car?–but there’s no harm in all of us thinking about the terms we use and playing with the language.

But Walt says the biblioblogosphere is “too Germanic” (adding “in construction, not derivation”) and also complains that a sphere is something with a center.

I am not an etymologist; I’m not even an entomologist. But I do know a few word roots, courtesy of book-larnin’. So Walt’s objection made me curious. In fact, biblioblogosphere is a bit of a mutt, much as I am… but anything but Germanic, unless by that Walt is referring to the concept of piled-upon compound nouns, though usually those resolve themselves through contraction (automobile –> auto; of the clock –> o’clock).

(Just to be very clear, I have nothing against Germany… in fact, the Schneiders in my family could easily be mistaken for Germans. My blue-eyed aunt recently shared a story of being made to wear a Star of David necklace as a child so the children in her Lower East Side neighborhood wouldn’t tease her and call her a “shiksa.”)

I’m soon bidding farewell to the beloved databases Gleeson Library has provided me now for nearly two years. The OED is one of my favorite. I used it to dissect “biblioblogosphere”–which is, in the end, simply a word I coined, which you are welcome to use if you like it, or not if you don’t.

All I did was take a Greek root (biblio) and tack it on to a noun already in use: blogosphere. The humor, such as it is, comes from yoking a mildly fusty word with a neologism (though I was also thinking of the French word for library, bibliotheque, which like the word sphere, is aurally quite pleasing).

Here’s a bit on biblio:

biblio: “repr. Gr. – stem and comb. form of book. In compounds formed in Greek itself, as bibliography, ; and in many of mod. formation, as bibliogony, biblioklept, bibliophagist, etc., some of which are merely pedantic or ponderously humorous.” (I’m happy to be both pedantic and ponderously humorous.)

Blog is web + log, so I dissect it twice:

web: “[OE. web(b neut., corresp. to OFris. web, wob (WFris. web, webbe, NFris. wêb, wäb), OS. webbi (MLG. and LG. webbe), MDu. and Du. webbe, web, OHG. wappi, weppi, webbi (MHG. weppe, webbe) neut., ON. vef-r masc. (genit. vefjar; Da. væv, Sw. väf):OTeut. *wabjo-m, -z, f. *wa- ablaut-var. of *we-: see WEAVE v.1]”

log: “[Late ME. logge; of obscure origin; cf. the nearly synonymous CLOG n., which appears about the same time. Not from ON. lág felled tree (f. OTeut. *lg-, ablaut-variant of *leg- LIE v.1), which could only have given *low in mod.Eng. The conjecture that the word is an adoption from a later stage of Scandinavian (mod.Norw. laag, Sw. dial. låga), due to the Norwegian timber-trade, is not without plausibility, but is open to strong objection on phonological grounds. It is most likely that clog and logge arose as attempts to express the notion of something massive by a word of appropriate sound. Cf. Du. log clumsy, heavy, dull; see also LUG n. and v. In sense 6 the word has passed from Eng. into many other langs.: F. loch, Ger., Da. log, Sw. logg.]”

Though we could simply point to the OED’s etymological entry for blog: ” 1999 TBTF for 1999-08-30: Aibo Rampant in cistron.lists (Usenet newsgroup) 30 Aug., Blog., a Web log… First spotted on the Eatonweb blog, er, Web log on 1999-08-25, though Eatonweb’s proprietor Brigitte says the coinage is due to our very own TBTF Irregular Peter Merholz.] ”

Finally, we get to sphere:

sphere: “[ad. OF. espere (13th c.), later sphere (mod.F. sphère) or late L. sphra, earlier sphæra, ad. Gr. ball. So It. sfera, Sp. and Pg. esfera; MDu. spere, speer (Du. sfeer), MHG. spære, spere (G. sphäre).] I. 1. a. The apparent outward limit of space, conceived as a hollow globe enclosing (and at all points equidistant from) the earth; the visible vault of heaven, in which the celestial bodies appear to have their place.”

I am charmed down to my socks by the idea of a wonderful snowglobe encasing all biblish bloggers great and small. These days I feel like a small star, just glimmering bloggishly while I struggle with larger challenges in my life that limit how much time I have for sharing here on FRL. But I’m still in the sky. Whatever terms we use, there’s room for all of us… and always room for a few more celestial bodies.

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