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The Winston Churchill of coinages
Friday, May 25, 2007   3:42 PM

Dr. Seuss has a bunch of nonce coinages out there that never went anywhere (nerd is the most famous) and indeed that was, as they say, the point.

I find it very frustrating that he gets credit for coining their homonyms, identically-spelled words which have entirely different meanings and origins.

The following words were not coined by Dr. Seuss:

No. Seuss coined blogg, but it was some sort of creature. Blog comes from weblog via the phrase "We blog" via some phonetic engineering and good old-fashioned clipping. There are countless articles and posts about this.

The first published appearance of this term may have been in the Dr. Seuss book Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!, below a drawing of a Crunk-car, but it's there as part of an ideophone, a word that uses sound symbolism to convey a sensory impression.

Though even this is probably giving Seuss too much credit. I'd wager that if you searched through old comics pre-dating this book, you'd find crunk used as an onomatopoeia for the kind of sound he had in mind.

Its modern homonym crunk, on the other hand, seems to have been coined sometime in the early-to-mid nineties, probably either as a blend word combining "crazy" and "drunk" or from the substitution of "c" for "d" in drunk. There's a claim, an Internet claim, floating around that crunk appeared on the Conan O'Brien show in the mid-nineties, though from what I understand no definition was given. This may also have been a third homonym, once again nonce.

No, this is just crazy, lazy BBC factcheckers to the contrary. I don't have an OED handy, but geek is a circus term that goes at least back to the 1800s. You're confusing it with nerd. And that's a whole other issue.

As my dictionary notes, "the word nerd, undefined but illustrated, first appeared in 1950 in Dr. Seuss's If I Ran the Zoo: "And then, just to show them, I'll sail to Ka-Troo And Bring Back an It-Kutch a Preep and a Proo A Nerkle a Nerd and a Seersucker, too!" (The nerd is a small humanoid creature looking comically angry, like a thin, cross Chester A. Arthur.)"

However, as noted by the website The Origin of the Nerd, nerd was already appearing as a slang term in Newsweek by 1951 and it seems highly unlikely that it could jump from a funny-looking animal in a kids' book to something like square in less than a year. The actual origins of the word are unclear, though I'm partial to the (admittedly difficult to prove) joke etymology theory.

Of which more at the aforementioned website.

If you believe the corporation's founders, this is a blend of zillions (!) and pillow. While I find this etymology profoundly awkward and lame, the mere existence of the 1974 childrens' book There's a Wocket in My Pocket! (where the zillow is a creature on a pillow) doesn't prove a connection. I could see my mind getting changed on this one with new evidence, but as Dr. Seuss knew, blend words are easy to make.


Shouldn't it be "Web log" and not "We blog"?

Two things: As Jason Kottke, one of the great blogfathers, notes in this post, bloggers have always preferred the traditional weblog over web log. The latter term is, etymologically, an evolutionary dead end.

As for your point about we blog: you're right. After some more research, I've become convinced that the spelling weblog is the direct source of blog.

As Peter Merholz, who coined the term, explains in this post, in 1999 he wrote in his sidebar that he'd decided to shift the break in the word so that it was pronounced "wee'-blog" and not "weblog."

He then wrote "or 'blog' for short."

We don't know how the transitional word/phrase between the original pronounciation of weblog and the newly-coined noun blog was spelled, but I interpreted "wee-blog" as we blog, as most English speakers would.

However, Merholz didn't say that he was changing the spelling, so rather than posit a nonce phrase we'll take him at his word.

So. The word blog was formed from weblog — in its "wee-blog" variation, which had the strategically-placed break between syllables — via clipping. This makes much more sense with the "for short."

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