English lessens

Robert Roe

English might be an easy language to learn, but thanks to slang, it takes a lifetime to master. And since the advent of the information age, some of us might benefit from a night class or two.

I love English – the language allows you to morph words and phrases into anything you want it to mean. And it’s all-inclusive. Anyone can do it. Can you remember a time when “bad” meant “undesirable?” How many of you still refer to CDs as “albums,” even though the format died (it is now enjoying a small resurgence recently thanks to audio purists)? Ever told your child they sound like a broken record, only to have them reply, “What’s that?” Unlike Latin, English is alive, well, and growing faster than Michael Moore at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Since the first web page was viewed December 12, 1991, the language has taken an interesting turn, becoming more of an English Lite than a real means of communication. In an age when data flies through the ether at the speed of light, users want standards that match it. In a world where some companies call their employees “human capital,” “blood supply” and “living assets,” is it any wonder the denizens of cyberspace would form their own language?

Focus your meat-jail (brain) on the information superhighway as we take a trip to the triple-dub (www, or World Wide Web) and explore the phenomena known as online jargon:

Immortalize your fourth point of contact on the company copier again? Better start “blamestorming” (this also works for discussing why a deadline was missed, why a project failed, and who is responsible).

The Vulcan nerve pinch isn’t only for geeks who live in their parent’s basement. Also known as the Three Finger Salute or Quadruple Bucky, these are keyboard commands that tax a hand’s ability to reach all of the appropriate keys. Control-Alt-Delete, anyone?

K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid) is a mantra that would save a lot of us from Cornea Gumbo, i.e. overdesigned web sites. Recognized by an overabundance of graphics and too much animation, these offenders are also referred to as Rasterbators.

Data surfers who make a living doing online research are now called Cybrarians. They’re like librarians, without the shushing. The really good ones might Double-Geek or Triple-Geek, using two or more computers at the same time. Sounds cooler than multi-tasking, doesn’t it? If you have more than one electronic device (ankle tracking bracelets don’t count), you’re said to be wearing digital jewelry.

Ever Google your own name to see how many hits you get? Congratulations, you’ve just gone ego-surfing. Have a program that latches onto every system on your PC and is impossible to eradicate once installed (Norton Antivirus, anyone)? You’re the victim of Digital Kudzu.

Holy War takes on a whole new meaning in the virtual world. Just post your belief that PCs are superior to Macs and watch the fireworks start.

But rest easy. While the vernacular seems to have passed you by, you’re not the Lone Ranger. Officially called “neologism,” the reshaping of older terms in newer language has been going on since the 1800s. So bide your time, and hope you live long enough to hear your grandchildren look at your son or daughter and say those magic words: “What’s that mean?” Then laugh.


Robert Roe