Sunday, November 01, 2009


In my world (computers), the term app has been short for application since approximately forever. That's what the industry has always done -- created apps like Lotus 1-2-3, or Quicken, or that thing they use at the dentist to to schedule your next appointment.

But in my corner of my world -- editing -- any mention in draft documentation of an app has always been expanded into the more formal term application. The idea is that app is programmer slang.

But is it any more, I wonder? I'm thinking here of the Apple iPhone, which has done a lot in latter days for, um, mainstreaming the term app. It's not an entirely given thing just yet; here's a bit from their Web site (web site, website):
Applications for iPhone are like nothing you’ve ever seen on a mobile phone. Explore some of our favorite apps here and see how they allow iPhone to do even more.

I interpret "Applications for iPhone ... some of our favorite apps" as a vestigial acknowledgment that there might be 4 people left who use an iPhone and who have not yet made the connection between application and app. But that's about the only place I can find that still does this -- it's otherwise the App Store, Apps for iPhone1, etc.

So my question is whether app is now firmly entrenched as a general term for applications or whether non-programmer types now think of it as something specifically for the iPhone. Has Apple succeeded in co-opting some programmer slang into not just general use, but in something that reinforces their own brand name? Pretend you're not a programmer. If you hear the word app, do you think application, or do you think iPhone application?

1 Note that Apple's own branding is Apple iPhone, no the. Common usage is the iPhone, but those of us who have to think about trademarks have to be careful when referencing this device in, for example, our official documentation.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thank goodness it's abou-tober

There's something about the name October that seems to inspire the urge to play. There's a certain mellifluous quality to the name that we don't have with other months (heck, people can barely pronounce February). And that -tober on the end makes a satisfying particle onto which you can join practically anything, it seems. We've all heard a local radio station advertise its Rocktober lineup (a term also in use by Guitar Center and, it seems, about 300,000 other folks, if Google is to be believed).

Just how productive an ending is -tober, do you suppose? A few minutes of seaching has turned up the following:

Good, if predictable, fun. Are there rules? Interestingly, almost all the examples here have a vowel that's in the same vowel neighborhood as Oct-. (The most common variant -- Rocktober -- is of course a perfect rhyme.) The word to be joined to -tober seems, from these examples, at least, to require a closing consonant. I would initially have guessed that any new prefix would have to be monosyllablic, but A-Rod-tober and Motor-tober appear to be counter-evidence.

What else can we come up with for examples, rules, or idle speculation?

Thursday, February 05, 2009


Another instance of a past tense that makes you go "huh?"

ABC has officially greenlit a pilot for its reworking of "V," the 1980s miniseries about alien lizards coming down to Earth.

(I got this from a Twitter post, but it seems to be a cite from elsewhere.)

I think my instinct would be to use greeenlighted. Probably (again) because we (well, I) like "regular" patterns for verbs and nouns, e.g., whacking -ed onto a verb for a past tense.

I briefly wondered about to light as a transitive verb; historically, I believe, this would have made it regular. But lit sounds right(er): He lit the way with a flashlight. Even so, greenlit sounds odd to me.

Obligatory Google search results:

greenlit: 256,000
greenlighted: 116,000

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Superizory role

Another one I've apparently missed. This is from an article about using Plurk:
On to some extras to uberfy your plurking!

So ... uber is the new super. (I actually blogged about this several hundred years ago.) Therefore, to uberfy is to make super-duper, yes? One might say that it's akin to pimping: On to some extras to pimp your plurking!

I do like it, tho as a former student of the Germanics, I still have a hard time letting go of Mr. Herr Umlaut. (And for that matter, front rounded vowels.)

Incidentally, the article from which this comes includes a link to Plurk that is labeled as obviated for invites. I understand about invitations/invites to join certain Web-based communities, but I can't say that I can figure out exactly what the author means by obviated in this context. (Obviously, I'm not going to be getting any invites to Plurk anytime soon.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Social studies

I heard a usage today, twice, that sent me scurrying to the dictionary. (Well, to Google, but that led to the dictionary.) Considering that I work in high-tech, you'd think I'd be au courant with late-breaking linguistic developments. Perhaps I don't go to enough meetings.

Anyway, the term in question is socialize. Obviously, we all know it in the context of chatting at cocktail parties and the like. And after peeking at the dictionary I allow as how you can transitively socialize, say, a feral dog. (You can do so grammatically, if not always in reality.)

Yon dictionary also uncovered a couple of transitive usages that I am not very familiar with:

2 a: to constitute on a socialistic basis <socialize industry> b: to adapt to social needs or uses

: to organize group participation in <socialize a recitation>

Can't say that I've ever consciously heard either of these usages.

But the usage I heard today was subtly different yet. At a meeting today, we were discussing a particular technique that we'd like people to use, and the boss said We need to socialize that.

A few editorial eyebrows twitched at that. I attributed it to a slip of the tongue and that what was meant was We need to evangelize that, which is a pretty common thing in our corporate lingo. Sell it. Talk it up.

But then later today, by golly, I attended a panel discussion about blogging, and one of the participants said this: I socialized the term "blog smart."

Hearing the second instance within mere hours made it clear that I just had totally missed this one. So, a bit of Web-based research revealed that the phrase socialize the idea (as but one possible phrase for this usage) has a couple thousand hits.

Web searching also turned up a couple of attempted definitions. This one is from Terrence Seamon:

The concept of "socializing" refers to the interpersonal communication process of building support for an idea or course of action by visiting with key stakeholders one at a time.

From the page 7 Buzzwords Every Content Provider Should Know*:

[T]his word means "to spread an idea with the hope that familiarity will gain it acceptance or build a consensus." Sentence: "After I write an article I like, I socialize the idea with social bookmarks."

In this blog post, they're simply taking it as a synonym for "familiarize," but in the comments people suggest slightly different definitions, for example:

[S]ocializing to me often means convincing a group – frequently by leading the members of that group to believe they helped to develop the idea.


Familiarization is a passive activity (I expect the team to learn it) whereas socialization is an active activity (I am responsible to teach it). It is in that teaching that the idea may undergo some changes and or modifications that may aid in its adoption or rejection.

It's mildly interesting to encounter a new (to me) word like this, but somewhat more interesting to discover that although the core idea is something like "sell personally," the exact definition is a little elusive. Of course, this is hardly the only example.

* I think they're not counting the buzzword content provider in the title.