July 18, 2004

Blognomens and blognomenclature

Someone whom it might be appropriate to refer to as "badaunt at lexical symbolic constructions" wrote something that I'm going to tell you about in my next post.

But I'm not quite sure how to refer to this author. So first, a digression about blognomens.

The weblog post that I'm going to write about is here, and we're trying to figure out how I should refer to the author and the weblog.

Digressing from this digression, let me point out that there's an additional problem about time: if you're reading this in late July of 2004, the link will probably work. As the calendar continues its advance, the chances diminish. If you're a time traveler from July of 2005, I reckon you've got about a 75% chance -- at least, of the 12 links that I checked in Language Log posts from July 2003, 8 are now good, a year later, and 4 are dead.

Anyhow, as of July 18, 2004, we can find a weblog and weblog author with the following coordinates:

Posting ID: "badaunt".
Index page <title>: "tBLOG - lexical symbolic constructions".
Banner text: "weblog".
Banner picture: second-growth deciduous forest in winter
Basic URL: http://www.tblog.com/templates/index.php?bid=badaunt
...or: http://badaunt.tblog.com/
URL of post: http://www.tblog.com/templates/index.php?bid=badaunt&static=229739

As far as I can tell, "badaunt" is the only person who posts to this particular blog. The name (assuming it's "bad aunt" and not "B.A. Daunt" or something), the references to the author's life companion as "the Man", and some other clues suggest that badaunt is probably female. Other references make it clear that she is teaching English in Japan. There is no "about me" page associated with this blog.

There seem to be two main emerging conventions for blognomenclature. One is "X at Y", where X is a personal name (which can be a complete name, a pseudonym, a first name or nickname, etc.), and Y is the name of the blog. Thus

Rivka at Respectful of Otters
Neal Whitman at Literal Minded
Claire at Anggarrgoon
Iggy at Blogalization

and so on. The other possibility is to use just X or Y by itself. The personal name is often enough, if the association with the weblog is well known to the explicit audience: Glen Reynolds, Brian Weatherson, Margaret Marks, Cory Doctorow.

The weblog name alone also sometimes works: Language Hat, the Enigmatic Mermaid. But for me, at least, the blog's name is not enough if it doesn't have the form of an English name or a definite description. So I find it hard to write something like "Respectful of Otters pointed out that..." I prefer "Rivka at Respectful of Otters pointed out that..." Sometimes there's no choice, because the weblog's author doesn't provide any identifier other than the weblog name -- this is the case for Semantic Compositions (who also refers to himself in the third person as "SC", but "SC at Semantic Compositions" would be kind of silly).

The blog name along also doesn't work well when it's a group blog.

There's a long tail of subregularities and special cases -- in language, that's the norm -- but to make a long story short, I usually prefer the "X at Y" form myself, at least for the initial reference. Then the usual mixture of pronouns, definite descriptions, abbreviations and so on takes over.

So I think that the right way to talk about the weblog post currently referenced by http://www.tblog.com/templates/index.php?bid=badaunt&static=229739 is to say "Badaunt at lexical symbolic constructions gives some cute quotes from her Japanese students' course feedback questionnaires..."

By the way, at the moment "blognomen" only occurs once in Google's index, as a nonce "metasyntactic variable" in this tutorial page for the radio blogging tools:

<%siteName%> blognomen
<%description%> (placeholders)

and "blognomenclature" doesn't turn up at all.

So I hereby suggest that blognomen should be used as a term for the "trevor at kaleboel" style of blogger reference. Blognomenclature might be used to refer to the study of such references and their alternatives.

Blogonym is already in pretty wide use for the pseudonyms or nicknames chosen by bloggers: "Jane Galt", "Wonkette", "Kos", "Dr. Weevil", etc. But that's a different thing.


Posted by Mark Liberman at July 18, 2004 02:23 PM