Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Lavishly decorate my workspace

The general culture of our particular workplace is, mmm, perhaps more youth-oriented than some. (Boeing, say, or Safeco Insurance.) When we came into work the other morning, the place was festooned with posters for a new campaign designed to get internal people interested in Windows Live Messenger. The campaign is titled "Pimp your Office", and the idea is that you take a picture of your sorry office and upload it to a shared folder on WLM. Then people go have a gander and vote. Result: traffic. (I guess.) The winner has their* office "pimped" with stuff like a couch and big plasma monitor

Well. It didn't take particularly long for HR to get sucked into a controversy about the term pimp. Official dictionary definitions were bandied about and various people professed to be mortally offended.

Google currently gets 2.6 million hits for the phrase pimp your, although that might be false, since I think they don't actually index your. Certainly the first several pages of search results contain the phrase pimp your ... or pimp my ...". This includes the lifehacker.com site ("Pimp your Mac Mini"), and there are pages that will help your "pimp your blog," "pimp your Web page," and "pimp your MySpace." There's a page with a post titled "Pimp Your Tech Writer." (FWIW, the way I read that post, they're not using the term as I understand it.)

When does a term that's current in youth culture become widely acceptable? Some older people cringe whenever they hear the term sucks, as in This music sucks. The word suck has become a mainstream, if very informal, term. (There once was an irreverant magazine, I guess you'd call it, at www.suck.com.) I wonder what reaction we'd get from people who are objecting to pimp your office if there were a poster that said something like Does your office suck? And what about that classic Johnny Paycheck song "Take this job and shove it"?

Update I am reminded of some other terms that are in common (informal) use but that have nominally vulgar origins: snafu; fubar; that blows (synonymous with that sucks); putz; schmuck; the various forms of WTF (discussed here before); ballsy. Prolly plenty more.

For anything we do on our team (technical documentation), pimp is still on the "forbidden terminology" list, along with a truly impressive variety of Anglo-Saxon terms. I don't know whether the marketing folks have to adhere to the same rules. In this case, it's quite likely the hipness overruled that list, assuming it even occurred to the poster's producers that they had a controversy on their hands.

* Used deliberately. No grief, please; if you think that their cannot refer to singular antecedents, you are wrong, sorry.

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