Article on computer slang in the Times

jester at PANIX.COM jester at PANIX.COM
Tue Jun 27 18:37:55 UTC 2000

Gareth Branwyn writes:

> The piece is not bad, but she misses one important component in this
> lexicon: HUMOR! As I point out in Jargon Watch, and when talking about
> online slang, a lot of this language (especially the material compiled in my
> column and book) is not used in daily conversation, but more often as a
> water cooler punch line -- as a way of getting a laugh and calling attention
> to our new "wired" condition. I don't think there are many people, deep geek
> or otherwise, who use terms like "bio-break" or "404" in everyday speech.
> It is true, as the article makes clear, that these words point to a lot of
> issues about what some post-modern academics might call "cyborganization,"
> the leaking of human into machine and the accelerated migration of
> technology into our lives (and into our flesh). I think that too often,
> people looking into the realm of "cyberculture" fail to see the humor, irony
> and sophistication with which many of these words are used.

I think this article, as so many about slang or vocabulary, suffers
greatly from an uncritical acceptance of glossaries or dictionaries
as an accurate representation of the subcultures that spawned their
language. Once one has (incorrectly) accepted this fact, it leads to
the even greater error that the words must shed some light on the

This annoys me so much I might actually write in about it. Nowhere
does Kakutani suggest that she has actually spoken to computer
people about this language, or anything like that--she's _just_
writing about dictionaries as if they mean something a lot deeper
than they do in this case.

Jesse Sheidlower

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