Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Whole New Vocabulary

Language evolves. It’s that simple. Despite my disdain for misuse of the English language, I know that. But think about the whole new vocabulary we’ve created through this digital revolution.

Let’s start with the obvious: Google. In case you didn’t know, besides being the premier search engine, it’s a term for ten to the one-hundredth power; that is: a ten with a hundred zeroes behind it. A big number. To its credit as jargon, Google entered as a verb. “I Googled it.” It took Xerox years to move from noun status (I need a Xerox [instead of the generic “copy”]) to that of a verb (I’ll Xerox it). Google – a big number and a powerful verb.

Text has also earned verb status: “I’ll text you.” It took a tad longer to get to that point than Google, but it’s certainly there now. No one questions it. And now we blog and we Digg and we Skype. Bad guys phish. User names and passwords abound. I recently saw “mouseover” for the first time and knew exactly what it meant.

Faxing and its related jargon are quickly heading for the museum if they’re not fully on display there already. Remember FedEx’s “Zap Mail”? When overnight wasn’t fast enough and we all scratched our heads and wondered how. We’re now texting all those folks we used to fax.

And in talking about big numbers, megs and gigs are commonplace. Anyone old enough to remember the start of this revolution and the advent of the digital age knows the whole thing is based on ones and zeroes. Bits and bytes. Even from the beginning they were measured as kilobytes, but megabytes? Wow, that was a big file. Moving it from one place to another could take hours. I now have a 4-gig flash drive smaller than my thumb, and I got it in a Cracker Jack box. It wasn’t long ago that four gigabytes of information ran on mainframes and even those guys were awed by the size. Do we still even have mainframes?

A friend commented that our communication has become very Star Trek-ish, and it’s true. In the not too distant future, we’ll all be tapping our lapel pins to chat with one another. I only wish food preparation technology was moving at the same speed. Let’s face it, microwaves haven’t changed much, if at all, in a quarter century. I’d like to have a food replicator soon. I’ve got all the communication technology I need for now. But a food replicator? Now we’re talkin’. “Tea. Earl Gray. Hot.” Or “Beer. Imported Ale. Cold.” Yeah. Now we’re really talkin’.

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