Loginned

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Several readers have drawn my attention to the domain and web site "loginisnotaverb.com", and the on-going discussion of this question at Hacker News.

I don't really have much to add to all the fuss. The origin of "log in" as an idiomatic combination of a verb and an intransitive preposition is obvious. There's nothing unusual in the transformation of this V+P combination into a noun, or in the tendency to write the noun (and sometimes the verb) without an internal space. The list of analogous cases is a long one: "strike out", "show off", "make up" — or "strike-out", "show-off", "make-up" — or "strikeout", "showoff", "makeup". Etc.  Nothing to see here, move along please.

I'll note that such V+P combinations are often treated as noun stems ("strikeouts", "showoffs", etc.), but it's rare for them to become verb stems ("striking out" not "strikeouting"; "showed off" not "showoffed"). However, there's a marginal tendency, apparently mostly among semi-literate adolescent gamers, to treat login as a verbal stem that can be inflected. Thus

Let me tell you all a little story. About 3 months ago, I (James94) made a user mad, then I got a 4 day ban. I got impatient so I made another account (Antwan). Then about two days later when I loginned to my new account and I had a message saying that I was banned for bragging too much at brawl. [...]

Please unban James94, and you can ban the profile I am loginned on right now (Jmes94).

Or

well my server is truely up and running and i have created accounts and loginned and everything, then i use the mysql query browser and change the GM column value for my char to 1 as i have heard people say but what i really want to know is [...]

Or this web forum post on the subject "loginning onto a network server".

I probably wouldn't use "loginned" or "loginning" myself, but not much in the fate of the world seems to depend on the question of whether these usages catch on or not.

Really, the only thing worthy of note in this whole discussion is the fact that it's taking place. This reinforces our usual points about the social psychology of peeving, and the  odd mismatch between the popular enthusiasm for linguistic analysis and the lack of competent attention to teaching the relevant concepts and skills.

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53 Comments »

  1. Tom said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 10:09 am

    "Loginned" sounds terrible and I don't recall having ever encounter it. But don't ordinary people use "login" as a verb all the time? As in, "You have to login to the website." If they need to change the tense they typically split it back up into its components – "I was logged in when it happened." "Try logging in again." Very Germanic, actually.

    [(myl) Unless I'm misunderstanding you, you've just sketched part of the normal syntax of English V+P idioms, of which there are thousands. The only (slight) difference here is that there's a tendency to spell the plain verbal form "log in" as "login" without a space. That spaceless spelling is normal for the commoner nominal derivatives (like "strikeout") but not for the same morpheme sequence used as a verb ("he's likely to strike out", not "he's likely to strikeout").]

  2. NW said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 10:16 am

    It's not quite a trivial question of the noun 'login' being converted to a verb. Rather, the conversion is blocked by the existence of the verbal idiom 'log in'. Someone can be lipsticked, kohled, mascara'd, henna'd, facepainted, but not makeupped, without a significant extra process of abstraction away from the morphemic, er, make-up.

    I'd guess the blockage is broken by the existence of 'login' as a command in some computer language syntax: just as, perhaps, getchar might be a command (and thus treatable in English as a verb).

    [(myl) This is a good point -- a better one, alas, than the (no doubt extremely intelligent and well-informed) commenters at ycombinator.com have come up with so far, unless there's a piece of the discussion that I've missed.]

  3. MikeM said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 10:44 am

    When he was a little tad, my nephew kept looking for his mother's robon, since she would say, "Let me get my robe on."

  4. Russell said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 10:54 am

    Noticed this about five years ago, though without much deep analysis. If Google's methods for reporting number of results was identical to what it was back in '05, could do some more interesting then/now comparison counts, but that's probably a lost cause.

  5. Jean-Sébastien Girard said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 10:56 am

    I think it's a variation from Internet slang along the lines of "brokeded" and similar construction.

  6. Mark P said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 11:25 am

    I suspect an age-related difference. Older computer users are probably familiar with the history of the login and the separate words themselves, which makes using "loginned" less likely.

  7. George said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 11:51 am

    I think it is also relevant that you generally "log in to an account" rather than "log in an account". The presence of the preposition "to" puts extra pressure into treating "log in" as a unit "login". This also makes "log in" different from "strike out", "show off", or "make up": You "strike out a batter", "show off your new car", and "make up your face", without another preposition thrown in there.

  8. John Cowan said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 12:39 pm

    While I was reading this post, my wife handed me two envelopes and said, "These need to be stamped and address labeled". It seems clear to me that this is a verbing of "address label", rather than a compound using the existing verb "label".

  9. Jonathan Lundell said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 12:53 pm

    One could perhaps make a case for "to address-label".

    I see that Google (gmail), Apple (MobileMe & elsewhere) and Amazon use "sign in". The NY Times & NYer "log in".

    My impression, though, is that "login" as a verb is pretty firmly established.

  10. Sasha Tormon said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

    I never thought about that, which is why I love your blog. I do often spell and conceive of the verb as being spelled "login." But after reading this post and the comments, I think I've conceptually shifted to "log in" in all forms:
    The infinitive should be "to log in"
    The simple past should be "logged in"
    etc.
    NW said it best, the confusion is due to "login" being either variable names or methods in code, or the general reductionism we find in AIM chat syntax.

  11. Jerry Anning said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

    I have been wondering if there is any consistent internal logic to the preposition chosen for such combinations. For instance you can say "turn on the light" or "turn off the light", and you can say "shut off the light", but "shut on the light", "open on the light", and "open off the light" all fail. Why does "fuck up" make more sense than "fuck down", "fuck out", or "fuck away" to describe making an egregious error?

    Incidentally, (#Cupertino Effect), my spellchecker was fine with "combination" when I wrote this comment, but it choked on "combinations". And, yes that was Tweetspeak.

    [(myl) See e.g. Diana McCarthy et al., "Detecting a continuum of compositionality in phrasal verbs", Proceedings of the ACL 2003 workshop on Multiword expressions; or Aline Villavicencio, "Verb-particle constructions and lexical resources", (same workshop).]

  12. Brett said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 1:17 pm

    About ten years ago, I was writing instructions for something, and I told the reader to "log into" their account. This looked odd to me, but only because I suspected that other people would not use the compound "into." I considered changing it to "log in to" or rewording it so as to avoid the phrase entirely. I think I ended up leaving it with "into," because that's definitely how I think of the phrase in my head.

    I also tend not to use "login" alone as a noun (although I certainly do use it, sparingly). I used to say "login name" instead, but that term seems to have fallen out of use. Now, I usually use "user ID" or some term more specific to the software being used.

    I think, therefore, that I have a particularly strong conception of "log in" as two separate words. Although they form a phrasal verb, each can be separately combined to form suffixes and compounds. Perhaps that's why "loginned" really grated on my sensibilities when I read it. (I found "loginning" very bad, but more in a "Wow, that sounds really stupid," way than "Wow, that sounds really wrong," if that makes any sense. I suspect my lesser reaction was influenced both by the fact that "loginned" appeared first in the post, and I wasn't really ready for it. "Loginning" with its similarity to "beginning" also sounds to me sillier and thus slightly less irritating.)

  13. kip said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 1:38 pm

    I was debating about this myself this week. I'm writing a feature for my company's software that allows a global super user to log in to a sub-company's system if they have been locked out. I debated what the button should read. "Login to company" didn't seem right. "Log into company" is closest to how I would actually pronounce it, but that didn't look right either. I ultimately went with "Log in to company."

    I wonder if the people who say "logined" also say "logouted"?

  14. Bob Ladd said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 1:40 pm

    For what it's worth, both Dutch and German have borrowed the English verb log in complete with its obvious original (i.e. non-peeve-worthy) Germanic structure – inloggen in Dutch, einloggen in German, with the usual Dutch/German treatment of the prefix (e)in: past participle ingelogd/eingeloggt, present wij loggen in / wir loggen ein, etc.

  15. unekdoud said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 1:50 pm

    I just can't get used to the 'word' loginning, while loginned is not too bad for me. Still, the unworded(?) forms logged in and logging in are more natural for me. Now, logginin splits into loggin' in, and loginnin becomes login-in'. The doubled letters are really confusing!

  16. Jarek Weckwerth said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 2:11 pm

    @Bob Ladd: Even Polish has borrowed the "Germanic structure" in a sense. We have login as a noun, sure, but the corresponding verb forms are the imperfective logować się and perfective zalogować się. Note that they're both reflective, too. The preposition, however, is not so obvious now that I need to think of it consciously. Maybe do 'into' an account; maybe na 'onto' a service such as Google?

    Anyway, loginować się don't exist ;)

  17. Robert Coren said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

    As to the choice of preposition: there are, or used to be, people who used "log on" rahter than "log in". I think there used to be systems that used "logon"/"logoff" commands.

  18. Matthew Kehrt said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 2:22 pm

    @Robert Coren

    I consistently say one "logs on" to a network such as the Internet, but one "logs in" to a secure system. I think this usage is standard among technical people, but I may be crazy.

  19. Zubon said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 3:19 pm

    In my online peer group, I think we would immediately interpret "loginned" or "loginning" as "this person has no idea what s/he is talking about." Talking about getting "an internet at home" (or worse, asking the clerk about buying one) produces a similar reaction. I cannot see any native speaker who knows what the words mean creating that construction unironically.

  20. Brian said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 3:40 pm

    Same here — and yet apparently it does happen.

  21. Boris said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

    I would say log into. Log in to doesn't look right. I can't think of any phrase where "in to" would be separated unless it's one of those ridiculous final preposition sentences no one really uses.

    Although log in and log on can certainly be used interchangeably, I tend to think there is a subtle difference. You log into something you can be inside of, while you log onto something you can be on top of. Also you can only log in by supplying credentials, while you can log on with or without supplying them (though typically you do even then).

  22. Ken Brown said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 5:21 pm

    I think that "log in" and "log on" are pretty much interchangeable amongst system administrators. I suspect, but I don't know, that they originate in different usages by different manufacturers in the 1960s. There certainly is, or was, an IBMspeak that used different jargon from other computer systems.

  23. Rubrick said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 5:36 pm

    This isn't directly relevant, but reading this has caused me to notice just how etymologically opaque "log in" is. Presumably it had something to do with appearing on the logs of a mainframe, but a quick internet search turns up nothing definitive.

  24. mgh said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 5:44 pm

    if it refers to issuing a command-line "login" then it wouldn't bother me any more than telnetted, ftp'ed, pinging, etc.

    if it refers to typing text into a field and clicking a button labeled "Login" then it shouldn't bother me any more than googling, netflixing, IM'ed, etc.

    but it sure looks weird.

  25. Ralph Hickok said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 6:31 pm

    Slightly on topic … I very much dislike ads and other promotions for websites that tell you to "log in," meaning to visit a website where no login is required.

  26. Jack Lynch said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 7:26 pm

    My favorite nonstandard past tense of a phrasal verb: "Mrs. Hogwallop up and R-U-N-N-O-F-T." — O Brother, Where Art Thou?

  27. nonpoptheorist said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 8:31 pm

    login, signout, bootup, shutdown, strikeout, copypasta, shop. Acceptance is growing. But loginned and loginning, I'll admit I've never come across either of those examples except maybe as a result of some dyslexic keyboard hammering.

    A friend helped me out with some interesting Slovene translations. "login" = "vpis", "log in" = "vpisati se" and "logged in" = "vpisal sem se" The conversation then moved on into gender, and numbers of people doing things and I almost lost it totally. One day I'm going to google how feminists regard the fight against gender in other languages as compared to how ours have heartedly assaulted English words.

  28. lurker said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 8:57 pm

    Boris: if you're in a cave, you climb up to the exit. Not climbup to, or climb upto. Once you climb up, you have a climbup. Once you log in, you have a login. Once you strike out, you have a strikeout. It's all so simple!

  29. ShadowFox said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 9:42 pm

    Marginally related and even more marginally possibly explanatory: "login" and "logout" are used with extraneous prepositions quite regularly. Caveat–I've only heard these with only the "log" part modifiable. For example:

    You must login into the system. vs. You must log into the system. vs. ?You must log in the system. (same for "sign in")
    (Also consider: You must use the keyboard to login into the system. etc.)

    I logged out out of the shell. vs. I logged out of the shell.

    There would be no need for duplication of prepositions if "login/logout" were not considered a unit. At the same time, I've always heard the suffixes attached to the verb and never to the whole expression. I did ask AZ about it about 3 years ago, but he did not think of it as anything extraordinary.

  30. Mark P said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 9:55 pm

    However, there's a marginal tendency, apparently mostly among semi-literate adolescent gamers, to treat login as a verbal stem that can be inflected.

    If you go round examining adolescent language for imperfections, you are basically asking to be peeved. Really, the way they speak is no guide to English at all.

    For example, in my area kids in a sports team will ask "Who are we versing next?", because they treat versus as a verb. I challenge anyone not to be peeved by hearing that on a regular basis. They will grow out of it though, as they learn that their usage is very non-standard, based on a misunderstanding.

    Likewise as the "loginned" kids grow they will change to "logged in" because they won't want to sound stupid.

  31. David Green said,

    June 19, 2010 @ 12:15 am

    @Mark P: I wouldn't count on it. It will be interesting to check back in 5 years (if we remember),

  32. Elizabeth Braun said,

    June 19, 2010 @ 1:48 am

    Not really, or directly should I say, related to this discussion, but the best one I read recently was on the blog of an avid needleworker who'd been to a sewing retreat. Whilst there, some international particpants gave all their new friends a little gift as a token of friendship. Lovely indeed, but when the event was described by, 'they gifted us with…', I was more than a little startled! Especially as this lady has homeschooled several of her many children…… EEK!

  33. nonpoptheorist said,

    June 19, 2010 @ 8:16 am

    @Elizabeth I think we may be getting into the realms of prescriptivism there. If the speakers start using altered language that sits best with them within the realm of computers/internet, who are we to prevent it? I have been led to believe linguists in teh English speaking sphere are here to note and discuss language change, not prevent it.

    Home education should not be blanket associated with failure either. Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 applying to England and Wales: "The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable 1. to his age, ability and aptitude, and 2. to any special educational needs he may have, (either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.)" If you can successfully argue the majority of kids at state schools are receiving the education the act dictates, and the majority of homeschooled kids aren't, then I cede the argument. Again, things are flexible, subjective and choosing the correct target is as political as a dictionary in a learners hands.

  34. Maureen said,

    June 19, 2010 @ 9:30 am

    Given that "gifted with" got standard in a lot of churches as far back as the 80's, when talking about gifts from God, I don't think you can stop it now when it comes to merely human gifts.

  35. Wimbrel said,

    June 19, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

    A friend helped me out with some interesting Slovene translations. "login" = "vpis", "log in" = "vpisati se" and "logged in" = "vpisal sem se" The conversation then moved on into gender, and numbers of people doing things and I almost lost it totally.

    Not to belabor the point, but each of the Slovene word-bits above has a discrete meaning, and the bits combine in fairly transparent ways to create meaningful wholes. While the lexicon of bits is fairly consistent across the Slavic languages, language structures that work by combination can be found in many languages, including English.

    For the sake of example, vpis, n., "in-write"; vpisati se, v., "in-write self"; vpisal sem se, v., "in-wrote one's-own self." You can easily see that the arrangement of bits crucially depends on the number of people, their gender, and the time of the action.

  36. John G said,

    June 19, 2010 @ 3:05 pm

    'Gift' is frequently used as a verb in the charitable sector – I don't have contact with the religious parts to know whether it started as a reference to gifts from a/the deity. I see it a lot but don't like it or use it.

    Interesting that Elizabeth had concerns about 'gifting' but not – apparently – about 'homeschooling' as a verb – 'her kids were homeschooled'. Maybe there's an ideological content to the latter verb that has made it more standard, or maybe it's just that the long form 'schooled at home' is too long.

    I am hopeful that loginned etc will disappear as the kids who use it grow older, but I'm not holding my breath.

  37. rech said,

    June 19, 2010 @ 7:05 pm

    'Gift' is certainly used as a verb. Also the adjective 'gifted' is a past participle pointing to the word's use as a verb I would imagine?

  38. Richard Sabey said,

    June 20, 2010 @ 5:30 am

    @MarkP "the way they speak is no guide to English at all."

    Well, it's to be taken with a pinch of salt, at any rate. Just like the utterances like "an beautiful octopus" which provoked Kung Fu Monkey to blog about them on Friday (hat tip there to Terry Hart commenting on LL's "Graphically snuckward").

    @Matthew Kehrt "I consistently say one "logs on" to a network such as the Internet"

    With some computers and net connections that might well be the case, but only if the user needs to go through some authentication procedure, e.g. entering a user name and a password, is that user logging in/on. My PC establishes a net connection on booting, so I don't log in/on to the net.

  39. Frans said,

    June 20, 2010 @ 10:42 am

    What about an irregular verb combining various usages? ;)

    "Earlier today, a spam email prompted me to login to some website. Instead, I logon to a competing website out of spite."

    It sounds better to me than loginned, at any rate.

  40. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    June 20, 2010 @ 4:48 pm

    Boris: how about 'this should be handed in to me'? I have seen 'into' used in contexts of this kind, but I think it's clearly wrong.

    Regarding 'gifted'; it is, and has been for some time, accepted usage in Scottish English. It has the advantage that it relates specifically to giving something as a gift, while 'give' can just mean 'hand over' (as in 'If I give you a five-pound note can you give me change in coins?').

  41. Daniel Barkalow said,

    June 21, 2010 @ 1:25 am

    In my experience, a "login" is more often an account than a session. This makes it hard for me to read "loginning" as the same as "logging in". The obvious meaning I get for a verb from the noun is "creating an account", although it's vague enough that I wouldn't commit to any particular generated meaning. I don't think English supports making a new V from a V+P directly, and, while a V+P->N->V derivation is fine (at least in theory), the resulting V has to have a meaning derived from the N's accepted meaning and also different from the original V+P meaning.

    For example, I'd accept "I spent the whole day handouting", but only if the things you gave to people would be described as handouts; even though you can "hand out" product samples, that would be a strange meaning for that verb to have.

  42. Ben said,

    June 21, 2010 @ 1:27 am

    I propose:

    Present — login
    Past — logun
    Participle — logning

    Regarding #gifted. In my dialect (NY-area AmE), 'gift' as a verb is definitely acceptable as in "they gifted us flowers" or with a prepositional object as in "they gifted flowers to us" (indeed, these forms are not just acceptable to me — I would use them myself). But I don't think it's standard to use a prepositional object headed 'by 'with' as in "they gifted us with flowers". This latter form sounds acceptable to me, but definitely strange.

  43. Dmitri Minaev said,

    June 21, 2010 @ 8:48 am

    My contacts with native English speakers being almost exclusively written, I used to think that the stress in the words like `login' or 'plugin' or even `tradeoff' falls on the last syllable. I still can't believe they don't sound like the V+P combination they were born from :)

  44. Boris said,

    June 21, 2010 @ 11:25 am

    @Andrew,
    Handed in to me seems better, but it still feels a little wrong (handed into me is just bizarre, though. It does have 121 real results on Google). I don't know what I would say instead, though, so maybe I'm overthinking this.

  45. Qov said,

    June 22, 2010 @ 2:16 am

    My favourite part is that they both "knew" to double the N.

  46. Martin Ellison said,

    June 22, 2010 @ 9:20 am

    Logon was the IBM term. They had their own parallel technical vocabulary before 1980 or so ('fixed disk' for 'hard disk', 'dataset' for 'file', 'IPL' for 'boot' and so on).

  47. Sean S. said,

    June 25, 2010 @ 4:08 am

    FWIW, I worked in software development for 20 years (and attended a very computer-saturated university for the previous 4 years) without ever encountering "loginning" / "loginned" until I read this thread just now. It's a bit like fingernails on a chalkboard to me, but I suppose it was an inevitable development.

    @Bob Ladd, the Wikipedia article on "Denglisch" (German with a heavy dose of English loan words) discusses the interesting case of "downloaden" vs. the pure-German "herunterladen". The former has apparently been gaining a lot of ground but also causes confusion; e.g. you sometimes see the past participle as "gedownloadet" and sometimes as "downgeloadet". Similar words like "rebooten" and "gecrasht" are invading their language, too.

  48. Ben Van Hof said,

    June 25, 2010 @ 3:44 pm

    My observation has been that "Log on/off" is characteristic of the Windows/Microsoft world, while "Log in/out" (and of course, login/logout) are more typical of the UNIX/Linux/Open Source world. Probably documentation plays a large role in perpetuating these norms, such as they are.

  49. Peter said,

    June 25, 2010 @ 6:11 pm

    @Ben, that distinction makes a lot of sense. Since Windows systems (and Macs) are generally personal computers, being "on the computer" usually means you're sitting in front of it, and logging "off" means you're done with the computer. Whereas most people don't have personal UNIX systems (of course exceptions abound with the Linux movement), and most people have to remote connect "in" to a UNIX server.

  50. John Cowan said,

    June 26, 2010 @ 11:40 pm

    I think the OED is quite right to associate login/on/out/off with the verb log 'to enter in a ship's log' > 'to record'. When a user logs in, an entry is made in the system log, and likewise when they log out.

  51. ‘Not a word’ is not an argument « Sentence first said,

    July 12, 2010 @ 2:04 pm

    [...] be verbed. For a more nuanced and commonsensical look at login as a verb, see the discussion here, where Mark Liberman delivers a dose of perspective that’s in striking contrast to the peevers’ [...]

  52. Login is not a verb : Nils Geylen said,

    December 24, 2010 @ 8:16 pm

    [...] incomparable Language Log 'tackled' this subject a couple days ago, and — not surprisingly — shook some of the drama off of the debate. There's [...]

  53. Joanne said,

    February 13, 2011 @ 2:26 pm

    As someone who has studied linguistics, the hopelessness of these explanations makes me want to run screaming from the room. The English language exhibits a feature that is very characteristic of Germanic languages — the separable verb. The base meaning of a verb root is colored or modified by a preposition. The preposition is part of the verb, but separates from it and can appear away from it in a sentence… but the two-part unit constitutes one verb. Often the preposition sticks onto the verb and forms a related noun. But the verb is the one with the separate prefix. German also has the "separable prefix verb" (the mechanics of it are slightly different from English).

    So, notice:

    Verb = to set up "I will help set you up" NOT "I will help setup you"
    Noun = setup "I will help you with your setup"

    Verb = to log in "I will help log you in" NOT "I will help login you"
    Noun = login "The user defined his login at registration"

    There is an infinite number of examples. Separable prefix verbs! Jeez loueeze…

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