Friday, August 28, 2009


One of my birthday presents was a book about the Titanic, which some of you may know is one of my obsessions. For those of you who are interested, the book (The Sinking of the Titanic: The Mystery Solved by LM Collins) is written by someone familiar with sailing in ice infested waters and calls into question some of the accepted facts of the Titanic’s story. It is worth reading although it can be a bit dry and it definitely isn’t one of the many conspiracy theories currently on the market.

This post isn’t about the Titanic, however. I’m only going to make a small observation about the migration of words and how it happens in only a short time. It has been less than 100 years since the Titanic sank but in that time the word “log” has changed in its meaning quite significantly.

One of the testimonies of the survivors mentioned the ship’s log, which I thought meant, as probably did you, something like a large diary detailing significant events on the ship. We use the word now to mean exactly that. This blog, or webLOG, is little more than an electronic diary on the web.

The log referred to by the Titanic survivor is actually a device for measuring the speed of the ship through water. Not the record of the speed but the way in which it was measured.

Isn’t that amazing? In 98 years the meaning of a word has transferred from a device to the recordings of the device to a general record of any sort. Captain’s log, weblog, logbook, error log.

I vaguely remember that the reason the device is known as a log is because it actually used to be a real log – a bit of a tree – that was trailed behind a sailing vessel and used in some way to measure the speed of a ship.

Imagine that!

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