I Believe . . . This Makes NO Sense
bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Wed Nov 12 22:24:35 UTC 2008
On Wed, Nov 12, 2008 at 5:04 PM, Doug_Harris <cats22 at stny.rr.com> wrote:
> -agnostic -- as in product-agnostic, database-agnostic, vendor-agnostic.
> domain-agnostic, and so on.
> There seem to be, all of a sudden, an unbelievable, or un-provable, number
> of variations on that sense-defying coinage.
> Do you suppose 'they' mean, say, product-neutral, as in something that
> applies to all products (within a range), or vendor-neutral, as in something
> that would be applicable to or good for all vendors?
> I first encountered it in a training course for where the context was that
> the company aims to "ensure all call-back script is product-agnostic to
> avoid any future [confusion]".
> Never mind the future: I was confused today!
As it happens (shameless plug alert), Nancy Friedman's latest column for the
Visual Thesaurus is all about the appropriation of religious terms in the
The full article is only available to subscribers (rates are quite reasonable!),
but Nancy helpfully excerpts the section on "agnostic" on her own blog:
Agnostic: In religious parlance, agnostic -- literally "without knowledge" --
refers to a person who has doubts about a deity or religious tenets. (The term
was coined in 1869 by the English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley.) In business,
and especially in technology, agnostic is a suffix attached to words such as
platform, marketing, and media. In those contexts it simply means "neutral" --
a platform-agnostic program can run on PCs, Macs, and Linux machines; a
media-agnostic publication is created for multiple channels (print, online,
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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