Blame the geeks for cutesy computer terms
by Hal Jacobs
For optimum impact, read this while doing an imitation of "60 Minutes" in-house curmudgeon Andy Rooney.
When you hear the word "yahoo," what's the first thing that comes to mind?
The "crude, brutish, or stupid" sort of person that Jonathan Swift first wrote about in "Gulliver Travels"? Or a popular Internet search engine?
Or take the word "cookies." The computer industry did. That's what they named those little programming gizmos that sneak into your computer when you surf the Web and relay information about you to their handlers.
They could have called them "spies." But they prefer "cookies." You would think those little sweet morsels of baked dough your mother made just for you would be safe from the information technology folks. But they're not.
Nothing's safe any more.
Not webs, or nets, or Spam. Can you imagine naming a misuse of electronic mailing after miracle meat in a can? Nikita Khrushchev credited Spam with the survival of the Russian Army during WWII. Now Spam is the hottest thing on the Internet. Well, not as hot as being flamed. I hope I'm never flamed.
But if my computer programs are ever damaged or destroyed by someone else, I don't believe I'll call that a virus. I prefer a more legal term. Vandalism. If I get a virus, I'll treat it with chicken soup and bed rest, thank you.
As for bugs, I like bugs. I find them interesting. I like to watch them to see where they go. They walk funny. That's why I think computer makers should find another word for the malfunctions in the product they sell us. Or, at the very least, not charge us to buy an upgrade that promises to fix all the bugs from the previous release.
This would have never happened if a company with a sensible name like International Business Machines had stayed on top of things. You can bet if IBM had gotten to the Internet first, we'd be doing something besides "surfing."
Let's blame Steve Jobs and those fun, clever people at Apple. Whoever heard of naming a computer after a fruit? It's been downhill since the first Apple came on the scene.
The Amazon used to be a mighty river; now it's a home page on my desktop. I like amazon.com. I use it. But I prefer to visit my neighborhood bookstore where I interact with other living, breathing, book-loving human beings. Hi, gang!
And about those menus
. Menus should make you salivate, not point and click. Java should warm your stomach, not make you assume the hourglass position while you wait for something to load. I'd rather load wash.
Memory was once something we all had plenty of - except for the very old and the very guilty. Now we can buy all we want, including RAM. In the old days, two male sheeps were plenty.
One new word that programmers have given us is "Y2K." I suppose since they caused this millenium bug in the first place, they thought it was only decent to coin a new name for it. I'm surprised they didn't call it "Oops."
Is there any end to this? Are the computer professionals going to raid the English language for every single word they can find to translate their incomprehensible jargon in terms that are, quite simply, cute as hell?
Well, I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore. Especially not from a bunch of geeks. You know where that word came from, don't you? Geeks were the carnival freaks of the 19th century who made their living from biting the heads off live chickens.
Wait a second. . . . Do you think we're seeing the revenge of the geeks? We call them geeks, wonks and nerds, and they, in turn, take delight in running our language through a virtual blender.
All right, geeks. Let's make a deal. You lay off the English language, and we'll stop calling you bad names. Anybody who makes as much money as you people do deserves our respect.
Even if you blow all your time on something called "Yahoo."
from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sunday, March 14, 1999