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"Login" is not a verb (loginisnotaverb.com)
38 points by treyp on June 17, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 65 comments



I'm beginning to think that linguistic prescriptivism is going to have a hard time holding up against the crazy mixing bowl that is the Internet and, to a wider extent, globalization. It's fun to play grammar nazi and all, but I've started to resign to the fact that people are simply going to do what they're going to do. Look at the state of English only a couple centuries ago. Language evolves quickly.

Who's to say login can't become a verb? "Google" and "email" did. Busily propping up websites like this with guides and corrections is like a finger in the dike.


I've started to resign to the fact that people are simply going to do what they're going to do. Look at the state of English only a couple centuries ago. Language evolves quickly.

Blindly accepting all changes goes too far in the other direction. People can write however they like, but people with an interest in communicating clearly in written English usually adopt a middle way by developing their own style based on a mixture of conventions they've been exposed to. For example, I typically write in semi-formal US English influenced heavily by the Chicago Manual of Style.

There's a beauty in having standards in order to make certain categories of text (such as work e-mails, quotes, or newspaper articles) easier to read and understand, but there's also a beauty in having multiple standards that are flexible and can slowly adapt to changing tastes over time. No-one is fixed in how they have to do things.

I don't believe we should encourage people with an interest in communicating clearly in written English to simply "do what they're going to do" but to appreciate the gamut of professional written English and to try and stretch the boundaries of it little by little, without falling into heavy use of slang or neologisms. Written English is a different beast to everyday, casual speech.

The English language moves, for sure. I believe, however, the vaguely defined standards of formal English shouldn't be ignored, changed too rapidly, or pushed in too many directions at once. It takes people time to keep up and, at the end of the day, clear communication is what it's all about.


As soon as you say some usage is incorrect or "goes to far," you're claiming there's a line in the sand somewhere. Who is going to draw that line? There would have to be some governing body. Personally I'd rather argue that random speakers tend to be wrong, then try to lobby a language-government to change a language if there was something I disagreed with.

On top of that, the fact of the matter is that we use different "languages" in different domains. When writing something for a public or semi-public audience, I do think there should be a formal specification for English so that you can KNOW deterministically if your composition is correct. For verbal conversation it's unreasonable to expect people to conform to a formal grammar. For instant messaging it's apparently unreasonable (or at least hopeless) to expect any resemblance to "formal" English.


you're claiming there's a line in the sand somewhere.

The only solid line I drew was that flat-out anarchy is a step too far. You talk about governing bodies and "language governments," even though I endorsed the current "middle way" paradigm of house styles (like the Chicago Manual of Style, the Associated Press house style, the Times of London style) as offering the best of both worlds. There is no dichotomy of a total free for all versus having a "language government."

When writing something for a public or semi-public audience, I do think there should be a formal specification for English so that you can KNOW deterministically if your composition is correct.

See, I disagree with that. Being with the gamut of what is considered professional, written English is good enough. US English and British English have differing formal standards (and even those aren't fixed by any one group), yet are easily read by both types of reader. Having multiple standards within an overall gamut of professional English is the current system and people adhere to whatever house style they wish (or, more commonly, mix together different notions of what they consider to be good).

Working within a gamut offers both structure and flexibility without resorting to "language governments" or language anarchy.


I think many of these arguments are just about the confusion between an in-the-system and out-of-the-system perspective.

Suppose I say "Joe Bloggs shouldn't be President". You could reply "Who are you to say that? We have a democratic system, and if the people choose to elect Joe Bloggs as President then Joe Bloggs should be President". And of course you'd be right in that I don't have the right to stand outside the system and declare that Joe Bloggs shouldn't be President. But if we zoom in on the democratic system then you'll see all sorts of people standing around arguing about whether Joe Bloggs should or should not be President, which is probably the level on which I meant to make my pronouncement in the first place.

Similarly, if I say "login" isn't a verb, it's not because I'm setting myself up as the independent arbiter of what is and isn't a word, I'm merely expressing a ground-level preference within-the-system preference that it should not be considered a verb (due, in this case, to inconsistency and the impossibility of sensibly putting it into past tense), and words come and go due to just such sorts of ground-level arguments.

So, with that out of the way, I agree that "login" shouldn't be a verb. Also, "panini" is plural and the singular is "panino".


You mention "what is considered professional" in written English. The problem is, it's impossible to be completely confident that your written piece is correct because there is no formal definition of "correct." Take for example gender-neutral third-person pronouns. We don't really have one in English. You can say "he or she" or "the user" or even the dubious "they," but none really sound "correct." If there were a formal grammar for English, you could just use "they" (assuming that is what the grammar specifies) and no one could really argue that you're incorrect or using "bad style." There are local style guides, and I think they're a good thing, but aren't most of them not public and free? I know MLA isn't free, which is ironic since universities often require you conform to MLA style (also, MLA isn't a very formal grammar when it comes to citing sources).

When I say "language government," I don't necessarily mean there would be any relation with an actual government. In fact, any free and amendable formal grammar/style guide would qualify as "language government."


When I say "language government," I don't necessarily mean there would be any relation with an actual government. In fact, any free and amendable formal grammar/style guide would qualify as "language government."

I think we have reached an intellectual compromise we can both agree on :-) I think an open style guide backed by a respected foundation and esteemed board (a la the Creative Commons organization) would be an excellent idea.

You are right about the slightly closed nature of style guides. I'm a big fan of the Chicago Manual of Style but it's not free, and nor is the fine AP Stylebook (they even charge $20 or something for their iPhone app..)


>Who's to say login can't become a verb?

I argue is already has


If you can be understood as you intended, your communication was effective and therefore "correct" on the most basic level. Beyond that, until there's a formal grammar for English, it's up to YOU to try to conform your language usage for some desired effect (e.g. to appear educated).


> "Google" and "email" did

"Google" and "email" don't contain prepositions.

I log in. You log in. We all logged in.

I login. You login. We all logined. What? We all loggedined? We all loggedin?

If we just acknowledge that "login" is a noun referring to your credentials, where as "log in" (or "log on") means to supply one's login/credentials, then it's all hunky-dory.


I do not see that a space makes much of a difference.

Plenty of linguists would admit 'login' as a verb. There is very little difficulty in accepting that 'to log in' and 'to login' mean the same thing.

In this case "in" does not function as a preposition, it is part of the verb. The evidence for this is immediately apparent when we consider that "to log" and "to log in" really are two different activities. We do not mean that we record anything when we login to a machine, what we are doing is obtaining access to it by means of an exchange of previously established authenticating information - and while this step may involve making a record of our login, it need not for the basic sense of that action to remain intact.

Also, we have no trouble with a multi-word verbs in English, if you don't believe me, try googling 'phrasal verbs'. This article is either a gag, or really is just an example prescriptavist nonsense which attempts in futility to combat the last 50 years of linguistic consensus.


'If we just acknowledge that "login" is a noun referring to your credentials, where as "log in" (or "log on") means to supply one's login/credentials, then it's all hunky-dory.'

If only. According to the James Study of Casual TV Activity, "log on" means "visit this Web site". Any use of user name or password is coincidental.

E.g "Log on to CNN.com for all the latest headlines."

It's a lost cause. I'm saving my energy to preserve the distinction among "few", "fewer", "less", and "lesser".


> According to the James Study of Casual TV Activity, "log on" means "visit this Web site". Any use of user name or password is coincidental.

That's just incorrect usage of terminology by (most likely) marketing/PR people.

In the olden days, you had to log on to your ISP over a modem. "Logging on" happened all the time to access anything outside your computer.

I suspect that the occasional use of "log on" in reference to simply visiting websites will disappear in favor of simply "visit". "Log on" will continue to be used and abused with connection to sites that actually want you to log on (after all, what better way to turn your website into a money maker than by gathering user data).

> It's a lost cause. I'm saving my energy to preserve the distinction among "few", "fewer", "less", and "lesser".

This is reminding me of the article about the recent English grads who traveled the country correcting grammar and spelling errors in signs on the way.


Logdin, or perhaps, logdone.


Not worth getting upset about. Personally, I'm more concerned that we're going to lose the word "lose". Everywhere I look, I see people sticking an extra o in there. "You loose" etc.


Agreed, that's a much harder one to swallow.

Sure, languages change over time and so on, but there's already a verb "loose", meaning "release", more or less.

When I become a billionaire and there are trespassers on my estate, I want to be able to cry "Loose the hounds!" without my overly-subservient toady thinking he should misplace them.


Or "then", as in "My spelling is worse then a child's"


I suggest a new, combined form: looose. The meaning will be drawn from context. I anticipate efficiency improvements world-wide.


The English language doesn't have a word with three or more repetitions of a letter. "LOOOL" and "mmmmmmuah" excepted.


From /usr/share/dict/words on OSX, I get the following:

whenceeer (probable corruption of whenceever, and hence not legit)

wallless

bossship

demigoddessship

goddessship

headmistressship

patronessship


First one is probably a contraction missing the apostrophe: "whencee'er". But that doesn't explain why "wheree'er" doesn't show up.



VIII? That's not a word, it's a number.

Or, more accurately, it's a representation of a number using characters which happen to be letters of the alphabet.


Just as words are representations of ideas using characters which happen to be letters of the alphabet. This is all sarcasm, by the way.


Yo' momma loose.


    "First they came for the verbs, and I said nothing
    because verbing weirds language. Then they arrival
    for the nouns, and I speech nothing because I no
    verbs."
                 -- Peter Ellis.
And from the wonderful Calvin and Hobbes:

    Calvin: I like to verb words.
    Hobbes: What?
    Calvin: I take nouns and adjectives and use them
            as verbs. Remember when "access" was a thing?
            Now, it's something you do. It got verbed.
            Verbing weirds language.
    Hobbes: Maybe we can eventually make language a
            complete impediment to understanding.


Cute, but English has tens of thousands of "phrasal verbs": Stand up, stand down, stand out, stand over, stand against, understand.

Even more remarkable is that native speakers use these constructions all of the time, yet the idea of a phrasal verb is apparently not taught in school.


The point is that phrasal verbs are written spaced: "stand up" -- even when conjugated: "stood up", not "*standupped".


Well, some phrases (and yes, phrasal verbs) get concatenated over time, like "understand", "overtake", "courtmarshal", "becalm", "whipsaw", etc. The conjugation and number rules work themselves out eventually, for example, "courts-marshal", "overtook".

It's just one of the ways languages mutate. Usually the noun form mutates first, and later on the verb form, but not always.


Following the model of "understand" -- I'm going to start going with "inlog". Inlogging, inlogged, inlogs -- it just works!


Go get 'em, tiger.


TL;dr - People "log in" to your site using your "login" page. You use your "login" details to "log in."


Technically, I don't think "log in" is a compound verb. It's a verb followed by a preposition.


Interesting. While what you say has "logical" written all over it (given variants like "logged out" where "logged" is clearly the verb), "log" as the verb for this activity doesn't feel right to me. I will, however, update my previous post :-)


People have said as much in other places in the thread, but it's probably better to consider "log in" a phrasal verb. So your instinct ("doesn't feel right to me") is right: they form a single semantic unit. You don't log (full stop), you log in.


People out there seriously think "login" is a verb? Why make things complicated? You just forgot the space. The usage of the verbs "log" and "sign" (as in "log in" and "sign in") is clearly a metaphor for the paper forms ("logs") used for buildings, equipment cabinets, etc.

Here's a visual aid: http://www.flickr.com/photos/riggzy/3177839298/

Also see meanings 6 and 13 at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/log.


Login is whatever 350 million people say it is.


Ok, login isn't technically a verb... yet. Fact of the matter is, any language is an evolving form of communication (except maybe latin at this point). Along with words like signup, setup, etc, these words are nearly ubiquitous on the web, and widely accepted/understood.

...we can't let one little conjugation problem make thousands of programmers and technical writers look like fools

"login is not a verb" + "many websites use it as a navigation element" != "programmers look like fools"

I could use a simple door with an arrow image for logging in as well. That image is not a word at all. Yet it would still serve as an effective navigation element.

Also, who says that all websites intend for it to be a verb anyway? I have another navigation called "account". I do not want users to account the site. I simply want them to know that is the account page. Likewise, "login" signifies that is the link to the login page, for which this article granted that it may be used as a noun.

Ok, I've spent entirely too much time on this subject.



It seems someone didn't read. One of the links on that page is to http://www.usingenglish.com/reference/phrasal-verbs/log+in.h.... How does an entry for the phrasal verb "log in" which doesn't even contain an occurrence of "login" corroborate that the latter is a verb?


Also, "pedant" is a noun.


It simply is.


Login can be a verb, we just haven't collectively decided how to conjugate it. Correct in language is usually more a function of convention rather than functionality. There just aren't rules to handle this. It can either be "he logs in" where we just revert to the two word version, which appears to be the most common approach, or you just conjugate and recombine. "He logsin". This is harder to recognize and pronounce so I prefer the former. Eventually, the matter will get settled by convention and then grammar nazis will nitpick people for not knowing the rules for conjugating verb phrases correctly.


Login = log in without the space, just like some people use awhile as an adverb whereas a while is the correct usage everywhere else (some people just use a while everywhere). Log is the real verb. I logged in to the website.


No other verb in the American language behaves that way. Even in the arcane, deprecated predecessor of American (English), no verb behaves that way.

Wait, what? American language? Deprecated predecessor? Somebody really seems to hate the English people. The name of the language is still English. American English. Just as the language they speak in Australia is Australian English. See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_language#Countries_in_o...


Yeah, I totally switched off when I read that phrase. Taking a dig at the British is totally unnecessary and betrays the author's childishness. He needs to get that chip off his shoulder.

It takes away from his otherwise, carefully constructed argument.


I think it's almost silly to admit "log in" has the correct meaning and then quibble about the orthography. I'd contend that it very much is a verb in the same vein of phrasal and separable verbs as found in, e.g., German and English. The fact that to log and to login are different is curious enough. If I were a betting man, I'd say this is part of a lexical entry that composes the verb, and being non-finite, is left in its generated position as the finite portion becomes tensed. Regardless, usage trumps all.


"impact" is also not a verb. I'm sure Nero Wolfe would agree with me on that, if he were here today.


Actually, impact has been a verb for a very long time... though generally referring to wisdom teeth or, uh, feces.


Even if it behaves like no other verb in the language doesn't mean it's not a verb. Look at "go."


"Asinine fascist unwilling to brook dialogue (thus, no contact or comments on the web site) and unwilling to consider that English is English precisely because it has no rules that cannot change, and thus became the international lingua franca" is a longish phrase.

It simply is.


It is if I use it as a verb. Now go away and find something worthwhile to rant about.


Login - is a noun. To login is actually "to log in" and thus "I logged in"..


Ah, the past tense has always jarred with me and I now know why. Makes sense. It's going to be hard to eradicate from my technical writing though.


Well, if 'login' is still missing in the dictionary, then it is time to add it. Maybe as noun at first which can be verbalized later?




'Magnanimousness' is not a noun. It's simply not.


It is now. Just like Google has become a verb.


If it walks like a duck....


Nor is "Yellow-carded".


Welcome to English where we've been turning nouns into verbs and vice versa for quite a while now.


I think that would hold more weight with people on this issue if it weren't the case that there's already an appropriate verb here—"log in".


Language mutates, often in unfortunate ways. "Login" is not actually a verb if you follow the "rules" of English. You log in. "Log" is the verb. As much as it bugs me, though, I've learned to accept misuses becoming the norm; this is hardly the first time a word has evolved from butchery. There used to be a billboard in SF on which a gym advertised that you could "workout in your pajamas!" I've learned to grimace inwardly about that, "alot", "alright", and other "violations". Because -- as in the case of "alright", we already have ... "already".


If login isn't a verb then why when i try to comment does it prompt me to "login"?

Example: Please login to comment. Example: Please exit to your right.

Yeah, that's what I thought.




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