Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Language of Confusion: Log

In keeping with this week’s “theme” of blog-reflecting, let’s look at the word log. After all, it’s not only the end of the word blog, a record of events. It’s also a hunk of a tree. Now how did those two things get connected?

Wood-log came into being in the early fourteenth century as a noun. Its word ancestors are a bit of a mystery. There’s no similar word in Old English or Old French or the classic standby of Latin. Middle Englishhas logge, but it seems that the word just showed up on its own, apparently because they thought it was a good sound to express a large hunk of something. For better illustration, think of the word “bam!”, and how it expresses a sudden noise or added emphasis. Log is the same thing, but for a big piece of a tree.

The other log is a fairly recent word, showing up in 1842 as a shortening of the word log-book, which showed up in the seventeenth century. Interestingly enough, log-book comes from the wood log. The first people to use log-book were sailors, who used a wooden float to measure the ship’s speed and recorded it in said book. It wasn’t until 1913 that log came into general use as a kind of journal, and almost a century later, turn into our “weblogs”.

And for the, um, log, let’s note that analog, dialogue, epilogue and all those words with log in them are no relation to the above. They instead come from the word logos, which means the guiding principle of the universe (clarification: not LOGO; that’s something completely different...or depending on your view of corporations, maybe not so much) and has given us numerous words, including logicand logarithm.

TL;DR: it sounded like a good word for a chunk of wood.



  1. Log-book comes from log of wood? I would not have expected that.

  2. I've logged this for future reference ;)

  3. I didn't know that was the origin of a log-book!


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