The Jargon Hunter

The French are very strict about the use of their language (also about their Champagne), and laws banning the use of foreign words in official documents, advertisements, publications, radio and television appear to be, well, a bit on the harsh side. The idea of trying to keep a language pure seems not a little half-baked.
After all, a language is a living, growing and ever-evolving organism that no one can control. And what’s wrong with words like le cash flow and le marketing? They have a kind of Pepé Le Pew appeal.
But, then again, I have to admit I have my own pet peeves. When I hear words such as bandwidth being bandied about to describe how much time someone has available, I start to sympathize with the likes of the French language watchdog, the Académie Française.
Technology has brought us many good things: An ability to keep in touch with our friends and colleagues through e-mail, the power to do an endrun around greedy and incompetent telcos with Internet phones and robots that can vacuum as we luxuriate. Unfortunately, IT’s reach doesn’t stop there — it has also changed our language. And rarely for the better.
Here, we take a look at some of the abuses being perpetrated by the IT and business communities as their terms seep into popular usage or slip away from original meanings.

Contrary to popular belief, this is either a band of frequencies or wavelengths, or the amount of space allotted to the bits and bytes that travel over a network. It’s not a way to describe the availability of time you have for a meeting or project.
A perfectly good word already exists to express the latter meaning: Time.
This term should only be used to indicate a computer that is no longer connected to the Internet, or perhaps a system that is broken. People asking to take discussions at meetings “offline” should herewith be banned from attending all further meetings.

This is a much-abused term — these days it’s difficult to find a product out there that isn’t ballyhooed by its makers as being “sexy.”
But I don’t care what your server looks like . . . I don’t care if it comes in a sleek black exterior, does a gazillion calculations per second or ships with some lacy pink underwear, under no circumstances is it ever, in any way shape or form, sexy. Sexy is Orlando Bloom, a slinky black dress or a sense of humour.

While technology can have an impact on people, people can never be “impacted” by it.
Does that logic sound a little dizzy? Blame the rules of grammar.
I don’t care how life-altering a technology is, whether it’s the HAL 9000 come to life or GPS- connected RFID tags that strip people of their privacy, no one is ever “impacted” by IT.
This was a fine word until it became a verb. This might sound a little harsh to those who are used to leveraging everything from software to wireless networks to business relationships, but the only thing that should ever be used as leverage is a lever or something used as a lever.

A single version of the truth
There’s this new, revolutionary product that can finally eliminate all doubt and bring the information stored in your databases, e-mail and document files into sharp focus. And what do you know — every single vendor out there offers it.
Yes, that’s right, they’ve all got a set of tools that will allow you to see a “single version of the truth.” They slice, they dice, they eliminate all vice. That’s right, just buy their products, and all will be set right with the world.
Im spk
IMNSHO there R far 2 many abbr. KWIM? It’s a PITA. And U thought U left this behind with UR high school yearbook. How does NE1 understand NITING? It’s a lot of GIGO. I wish I could just LOL about it. L8R G8R. TTFN.

Note to language abusers: This is a person, not an action verb.
We can design systems that we claim can do things they can’t, but we never architect them like that.

Hackers and crackers
Let’s face it — this battle has been lost.
Yes, we in the tech community know that hackers are just particularly gifted programmers who don’t necessarily have a criminal bent, and that it’s the crackers you need to defend your networks against.
But the mainstream media thinks otherwise. As a result, when we refer to crackers, we use the awkward “hackers and crackers.” It’s time to choose one or the other.
Three-letter Acronyms
If there’s one thing this industry is not lacking in, it’s the three-letter acronym (TLA). There’s no shortage of them. But that’s only the beginning.
Not only is the IT community overly-fond of TLAs, but when new acronyms arrive on the scene, it seems to take a while for everyone to decide what they mean, adding to the confusion. Does RSS stand for really simple synchronization, rich site summary or RDF site summary?

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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