Thoughts on Language in the Blogosphere

Thoughts on Language in the Blogosphere

Some thoughts I’m putting together for a paper…

In the Blogosphere, one set of emotionally charged terms such as “link love” and its assorted extensions (“link slut,” “link whore”) emphasize proximity and interface. Blog A bestows “link love” on blog B by creating a hyperlink that encourages readers to visit blog B. By extension, a “slut” links promiscuously rather than selectively, and a “whore” links not out of genuine feeling but rather to secure personal gain. Another term related to proximity, though perhaps not obviously so, is “fisking.” The eponymous term refers originally to the activity of bloggers offering a systematic and usually disdainful rebuttal of a news article by Robert Fisk, but the term has generalized.

The text produced by a fisking alternates between the targeted author’s text and the critic’s response; the critic inhabits the body of the primary text, quoting from or paraphrasing it profusely. Because the target text is fixed in space and time, it cannot respond to the fisker’s frequent interruptions, and therefore can easily be forced into the “ignoramus” role in a one-sided Socratic dialogue. Earlier terms for similar activities, such as “flame” and “rant,” both seem to emphasize the emotions emanating from the author, but “fisk” seems to emphasize not the author’s response to a textual subject, but a persuasive act encouraging the involvement of third-party readers. A fisking is thus more deliberate and more targeted than a flame or a rant (even if it is typically no less ad hominem).