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What do you call an aging neologism?

Once in a while I poke my head in on Walt Crawford’s blog, and I noticed that he says he is “sick” of the term biblioblogosphere. I wondered how he could be sick of it, since it’s only a few months old–until I searched FRL’s archives and saw I had coined the term on February 10, 2004. Where did the time go?

I spend far too much time thinking about the Web’s impact on the rise and fall of neologisms and cultural catchphrases. (I prefer it to housework, in fact.) Think how phrases such as “I wish I knew how to quit you” quickly lose their freshness. Language Log often discusses snowclones–“adaptable cliche frames” that substitute for creative language. (I can still see the instructor’s Red Pen of Death on my first MFA submission: “Formulaic! Formulaic! Formulaic!”)

Anyway, my guess is that popular neologisms are hard to intentionally create, and that the best ones are inadvertent. After all, Michael Gorman begat “Blog People” while complaining about an “ugly neologism,” and I tossed off “biblioblogosphere” without really thinking about it lo these many years ago because it was just long and pompous enough to be funny, it scanned, and it was instantly decipherable (something not true with the acronym MPOW [My Place Of Work], which even regular readers of this blog sometimes ask me about–though I liked how someone else coined YPOW!). But let a thousand neologisms bloom (ouch, that was a painfully lame snowclone, quite beneath me!). I’m into change.. I generally prefer quarters, since they’re so handy for parking meters.

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