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Word Warriors

Technical fields often have a rich interaction with ordinary vocabulary. The computer field has usurped many everyday words for narrow technical purposes. We have taken over “object” and “entity,” leaving nothing to refer to those ordinary things in the physical world around us. We've appropriated “method” and “message,” arrogated “protocol” and “file.” It works the other way, too, of course. Technical terms enter the mainstream to the point that computer jargon now peppers conversations on the street.

Tech weenies in the computer field have a special passion for interpolating their jargon into ordinary conversation, extending and expanding the meaning of the terminology to cover social purposes. They struggle to “parse” a garbled voice-mail message or maniacally “multiplex” two conversations. Habitual patterns of behavior are “hard coded” in “ROM.” Programmers will “port” a tape deck from one car to another rather than buy a new one. They will do a “core dump” to write a first rough draft of a report on yesterday's design meeting. This can get pretty tedious or sound awfully silly, but technobabble occasionally enriches ordinary language in useful or interesting ways.


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