Monday, May 08, 2006

Nature calls

JimP sent me an email today with the title "Microspeak?" and this content:

biobreak. In a long and ongoing meeting, an agreed upon break so people can, um, meet their biological needs in a timely manner.

This is a word I hadn't heard until recently, and now it seems ubiquitous. I wonder how far out of Redmond it has traveled.

Pretty far, it seems. The more common variant is bio break (two words, or bio-break with hyphen), for which Google lists 16,700 hits right now; another 925 for the biobreak variant. Examples:

  • The site has a definition and includes this note: "Although its use originated in the tech world, this bit of jargon is now used in business meetings in many industries and even appears on published conference schedules."

  • And indded, a Canadian site with a meeting agenda shows "There will be a Biobreak: [Depending on good behaviour and desperation]".

  • There's even a definition in French: "Terme employ√© par les netsurfers pour indiquer qu'ils doivent satisfaire des besoins naturels, et donc s'√©loigner de leur clavier."

This is an example of a word that seems useful, if for no other reason that it's a very neutral term for something that we (in the U.S., anyway) are always a wee bit uncomfortable in saying. (What are the current terms? Bathroom break. Potty break. It's like we're little kids. :-) ) And anyway, as noted in the definition, biobreak covers a wider spectrum of, um, needs, including hydrating and fueling.