Brother, Can You Spare A Loanword For My Blog?

Loanwords are words adopted by speakers of one language from a different language.  There are many, many foreign words and phrases used in English, and often these have become so familiar that people use them every day without considering their foreign origin.

Some Scandinavian words that have become part of English are husband, kindle, lump, thrust, and scrub.  France gave us the words judge, noble, priest, lady, pork, and salmon, while the words tattoo and taboo each come from the Pacific islands.  From Australia we “borrowed” the words kangaroo and boomerang, while banana, banjo, and jitterbug come from Africa.

As a ghost blogger, I’m a wordsmith, and it occurs to me that the language of computers and of blogging includes many, many loanwords of its own.  These words come not from foreign languages, but from everyday English words given a slightly different meaning for Internet and computer use. When I compose my blog (“web log”), I navigate using my “desktop”. My information might be protected with a “firewall” against “viruses”.  When I look at a website, it might have “wallpaper”.  I “scroll” down to read the content and decide to “bookmark” it. I might email documents in a “zip file”. There’s no end to computerspeak using loanwords! 

Professor Suzanne Kemmer of Rice University explains that a loanword can also be called a borrowing. “Loan” and “borrowing”, she hastens to add, are metaphors, because there is no transfer from one language to another, and no “returning” words to the source language!

With literally trillions of words being added daily to the World Wide Web, the Internet has become the largest repository of information in human history. Blogging activity has become a rapidly growing part of this information swell, and (inadvertently or on purpose) there’s undoubtedly a lot of “borrowing” going on. My college students are taught to avoid plagiarism by properly attributing statements to their proper authors. 
The blogging equivalent of citations is links.  Even if you’re putting a unique twist on a topic, it’s good practice to link to websites from which you got the original news or idea (the link in the first paragraph of this blog post is an example of that).

Not only is the practice of attributing “loans” to their sources, as Alfred P. Doolittle of My Fair Lady might say, “the right and proper thing to do, there are actually rewards to be gained. Electronic links enhance search engine rankings for your blog by creating back-and-forth online "traffic".


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