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Neologists Unite

Back in 2004 I coined a term, “biblioblogosphere,” that managed to catch on. I wasn’t trying to coin a term. (What an interesting phrase, involving smelting and mints and all that.) I was just writing, and that’s the word that came out–not a hyphenated expression, not a malapropism, just a word, intended to be humorous–long, pompous, a little retro, with a good “scan,” as the poets say.

I think one reason “biblioblogosphere” caught on is that it was immediately challenged. I am not a linguist (though I do like the occasional tongue taco–and what a glorious city that I live in, that tongue tacos can be had at a whim). But I suspect once upon a time (now I am going to be very ahistorical, so no need to correct me) a caveperson sitting around a fire said, “Heyyyy… let’s call this: FIRE,” and several other cavepeople nibbling on bones left over from their Humongasaurus roast said “Yo, whatev” and began using the term, while three other cavepeople immediately said “That’s a terrible term!” and offered their own suggestions, like furor and fur and floober, which they then used at every opportunity (although only two of which eventually caught on, though for other use), and then the “Yo, whatev” crowd had cavepeople who became indignantly protective of their choice and said, “No, really, it’s a good term,” and that cast more light on a term that otherwise could have floated away as yet more flotsam and jetsam on the stream of self-published writing.

N.b. I have observed that on occasion, some genders are more reluctant than other genders to let other genders create new terms. But I will not dwell on that.

(Incidentally, that 2004 post referenced “weblog,” a term since shortened to “blog,” perhaps because “weblog” was hard to pronounce? When did it die, or do I care?)

I didn’t get serious or weepy about being challenged (at times, in lengthy and indignant tomes), or even about the long-term viability of “my” word… though it made me laugh at the nature of people. I didn’t have a lot invested in seeing my neologism push its delicate tendril through the soil and establish mighty trunk and roots. (Aside from this strange offshoot, which I just discovered.)

At the time, I had spent several years as senior editor on a weekly newsletter, and I was steeped in words in a way that (oddly enough) is not true in higher ed, unless you think the following are real words: promulgate, synergy, utilize… which I do not.  I had a quotidian attention to words that fertilized my brain at both conscious and unconscious levels.

That attention emerged again last week, at least briefly, when after an hour of mission-statement exercises with our cross-campus Vision Task Force (more fun than it sounds, especially since we served lunch) I stepped back and announced, to a collective gasp, that our verbs were flabby. I then rushed in to assure everyone that we had done very very good work and so forth.

There was some energetic thinking done that day, and we are on the road to a real mission statement, but — and I mean this very seriously — my leadership includes the awareness that I am “good with words,” and that something good can almost always be forged into something much better. Part of writing (and this comes from the MFA workshop experience, as well) is to understand that I am obligated to be merciless with my writing. When I am absolutely sure an essay is ready to be submitted for publication, I then send it to several more people for comments, and give it two more serious revisions–and if I have the slightest sense that it isn’t my best work, back into the hopper I push it.

At any rate (this blog post is beginning to remind me of W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn–the ultimate “So, anyhoo” read — perhaps the consequence of rushing through my “Monday” post early Thursday morning), I was very, very pleased to see that two doctoral candidates were awarded funding (from the Big O no less!) for research titled “The Biblioblogosphere: A Comparison of Communication and Preservation Perceptions and Practices between Blogging LIS Scholar-Practitioners and LIS Scholar-Researchers.” (Plus one of them is at McGill, which makes this international research.)

So “biblioblogosphere” will someday be discoverable as part of a monograph title.  I feel very motherly and proud.

Not only that, but as I write this post, I realize I am creating a set of nesting Russian dolls, because surely this post will become part of their research! Mirrors within mirrors! (This assumes they think I’m a Blogging LIS Scholar-Practitioner. I don’t know what their standard is, but surely crafting neologisms is worth at least one point.)



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