Lynne Murphy lynnem at COGS.SUSX.AC.UK
Wed Nov 28 11:23:42 UTC 2001

Hello all,

Could anyone help my colleague, Geoff Sampson, with the following query
regarding 'stovepipe' in US business writing?  (I haven't got a clue about
it.)  Please copy answers to grs at

Lynne Murphy

---------- Forwarded Message ----------
Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2001 3:57 pm +0000
From: "Prof G.R. Sampson" <grs at>
To: larryt at, lynnem at
Subject: American vocab

Could either of you help with a metaphor that is baffling me in American
business writing (which I'm working with because I start teaching
e-Commerce after Christmas!).  The word is "stovepipe", and I am frequently
encountering it used figuratively in some way that is really lost on me.
It seems to describe old-fashioned software applications that do single
jobs rather than being part of an integrated application suite:  you read
about "stovepipe applications", software having a "stovepipe nature", even
recruits being placed in "stovepipe departments" (where the thing described
is not software).  According to a Bank of America vice-president, the
industry pendulum "is swinging once again: stovepipe, integrated,
stovepipe".  The writers all seem to expect that readers will understand.
>From the context I infer that it has to do with doing just one job rather
than being flexible; but why?  What is it about real stovepipes that makes
this metaphor meaningful?  And, more important, have I accurately inferred
how it is being used?



from Geoffrey Sampson at home

---------- End Forwarded Message ----------

Dr M Lynne Murphy
Lecturer in Linguistics
Acting Director, MA in Applied Linguistics
School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH

phone +44-(0)1273-678844
fax   +44-(0)1273-671320

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