Monday, November 14, 2011

Create + Update = ?

In the world of databases, you can perform what are generally (and amusingly) referred to as CRUD operations -- create, read, update, and delete. Every editor I personally know who's encountered the term CRUD has been moved to ask "Seriously, can we even use this term?" Indeed, we can and, since our audience uses it, we should.

Fun as that is, I'm actually interested today in a term I have run across a few times recently that pertains to just two of these, namely create and update. The standard database command for creating a new database entry is Insert. If you need to update an existing entry, you use (logically) the Update command. Sometimes, tho, you have a situation where you want to update-or-insert — that is, update the item if it exists, or create (insert) it if it doesn't.

Turns out there's actually a term for this: Upsert. Like, a legitimate, definitely-in-use term that gets over 100,000 search hits and that has its own Wikipedia entry.

Like CRUD, this isn't apt to warm the hearts of editors. (It's also not yet in general dictionaries, which is more editorial reason to frown about it.) It's handy, tho, at least for the crowd that deals with CRUD-y stuff all day long. The term has been formalized in at least a few programming frameworks as an actual command (, Oracle). It's hard to imagine that the terms would escape into general usage from its current confines in the world of database folks. But you never know.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I can C you now

Had one of those moments. Yesterday evening my wife was looking at the cover of one of her nursing magazines, which had an article titled "Nurses in the C-Suite." "What does that mean?", she asked me. My articulate reply: "Huh?"

Then today I was glancing at someone's resume, which said this: "Highly effective external and internal communication from C-level to consumer." Same term, basically, twice within 24 hours. What the heck?

Apparently I've been out of touch with the terms C-suite and C-level. It's all over Google (> 1 million) hits, as if the evidence of seeing it on the cover of a magazine weren't enough evidence that it's widely known. Wikipedia has a nice explanation in its entry for Corporate title:

The highest level executives are usually called "C-level" or part of the "C-suite", referring to the 3-letter initials starting with "C" and ending with "O" (for "Chief __________ Officer"); the traditional offices are Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Operations Officer (COO), and Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Chief administrative officer and Chief risk officer positions are often found in banking, insurance, and other financial services companies. Technology companies (including telecom and semi-conductor) tend to have a Chief Technology Officer (CTO), while companies with a strong Information Technology (IT) presence have a Chief Information Officer (CIO). In creative/design companies (such as film studios, a comics company or a web design company), there is sometimes a Chief Creative Officer (CCO), responsible for keeping the overall look and feel of different products, otherwise headed by different teams, constant throughout a brand.

I take a very small comfort that the terms C-level and C-office don't appear (yet) in general-purpose dictionaries (including the OED, as far as I can tell). The Investopedia site has a definition that refers to C-suite as "widely used slang." That seems right.

I'm curious how long the terms have been around; they seem widespread enough to seem pretty established. Paul McFedries finds a citation from 1997 for CxO (Chief [Whatever] Officer), and his entry (tho not the citation) talks about C-suite and C-level.

I tried a Google n-gram search, but the hyphen is treated as a token by itself and I don't know how to get around that just yet.

Anyway, there you go: one of those moments. A term (two terms) that I've apparently been surrounded by for a decade or more and would have sworn I'd never heard before. I suppose it's evidence that I my own self will not soon be achieving any sort of C-level.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Why a Duck?

Back in July, a section of [the] 405 in Los Angeles was closed for repair. The anticipation of the traffic mess that this was going to make spawned the term carmageddon. (In the end, that whole project went pretty smoothly, possibly due to the extreme publicity and people's efforts to "use alternate routes.")

In Seattle, the venerable Alaskan Way Viaduct that runs along the downtown waterfront — a stretch of State Route 99 — has been shut down. This is the first phase of a project in which the old viaduct will be replaced with a tunnel. The viaduct is old (1953) and was damaged during a 2001 earthquake. Everyone feared a repeat of the collapse of the Cypress Street Viaduct in San Francisco, and the state DOT (cleverly?) posted a video that showed a simulation of what might happen to the viaduct in an earthquake.

All this led to a, um, Seattle-style debate about how to replace it, and here we are, a decade later, finally getting around to actually doing something. As of Friday October 21, the viaduct will be shut for 10 days while they do some preliminary work.

The problem is that the viaduct carries about 100,000 cars a day and that the only other major north-south route in Seattle is I-5. Closing off this route is, as with the L.A. closure of I-405, many people's worst traffic nightmare.

Ok! So what to call it? Carmageddon is sort of already claimed.

An early term that the MSM seems to favor is Viaduct Crunch. Adequate, but lacking that certain something.

Let's see what's shaking on Twitter! One hashtag on Twitter that has some traction is #viacondios. Cute, but to my mind a bit of a stretch.

It's looking like people are converging around #viadoom. It's all over Twitter, of course, and the term has gotten enough traction that it's showing up (albeit in quotation marks) in media reports — for example, in a Reuters article.

I do suspect that cute names for this little diversion are going to wear thin very quickly. L.A.'s carmageddon lasted one weekend. Viadoom is going to last 10 days, and there's years' worth of construction still to come. Perhaps when the tunnel boring starts in earnest, we'll get another term for that particular mess.

PS Should you not recognize the title of this entry, have a gander at this video.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Just throw some text at it

We've mused here before about the interesting "up" particle that can be added to so many verbs (man up, whip up, bulk up, eat it up, new up).* In Dilbert today, another appearance of the interesting "up":

This usage is not, I believe, the "up of completeness" -- eat up, drink it up. Rather, it's the "up" of "conjure [up]" -- whip (something) up, maybe even draw (a contract) up and make (something) up (?). There are subtle gradations of meaning here that might or might not all be the same.

Anyway, I like this a lot. Perhaps because there's been more than one time when I was indeed called upon to "word something up."

* And not just here; see also Fritinancy.

Friday, October 14, 2011

"Hello, World"

Over on my main blog, I have a piece on how Dennis Ritchie's influential book The C Programming Language introduced the phrase "Hello, World" to represent the starting point for pretty much any learning experience. Check it out:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Let's (cohort) party down

A friend of mine recently sent me email in which he said he'd been standing in an elevator with some young people who were talking about a "cohort party" and did I know what that was? Not me. To my surprise, searching around revealed many uses of cohort in casual ways that suggested people were familiar with the term:
  • If anyone is interested in having a cohort party, feel free to suggest some possible ideas. […] On friday, Melanie was saying something about a get together on December 15th, which is the day after we finish our practicum [#]

  • Some girls from my Elementary Education cohort decided to have a couples party. [#]

  • Each intake is split into cohorts. Each cohort divides into clusters. And each cluster… well, it’s just a cluster. So a lot of socialising happens at the cohort level. Like last night at the Irish pub in Rittenhouse Square, where the INSEAD group crashed a two-cohort party. We were told to ask the cohort of whomever we spoke to before they had a chance to ask ours. If they said “cohort E”, we were to pretend to be from “cohort I”. If they said “cohort I”, we were naturally from “cohort E” [#]

  • We have had the chance to meet many members of Cohort 10 as they’ve joined us for classes and speaker series over the past few months […] Now we are all anxiously awaiting the Baltimore Study Group-sponsored cohort party in January. [#]

And so on. But no actual definitions, as in "a cohort party is ...," really sprang out. My kids are college age and not un-hip; when I queried them, my son did note that he understood the term cohort in its, what, sociological sense: "a group of people having approximately the same age." But the term cohort party rang no bells with him.

I have to conclude two things. Thing one: I'm an old guy and the term cohort seems sort of quasi-technical to me (when I hear it, I think "academic paper"), but for younger people, it's a normal word that they're used to hearing in descriptions of their class/group/work unit. I asked Ben Zimmer about this whole thing, and he noted that he only started hearing cohort when he got to grad school, where it was used to describe what I might have termed his "graduating class." An n-gram for cohort provides a bit of evidence that use of the term has been rising since about 1970 or so:

Thing two is that a cohort party is nothing more than a party that your cohort -- your school class, whatever -- is throwing. And the reason that this seems strange to us oldsters is that cohort is just not a term we were brought up with.

If anyone knows something more specific than this, I'd sure love to hear it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A smarter way to app

The Windows Phone people are rolling out a new version of the operating system, known officially as Windows Phone 7.5, known unofficially by its code name "Mango." The tagline (or one of them, anyway) seems to be "A smarter way to app":

(Click here to see a 30-second video.)

The meaning they intend seems to be "a smarter way to use apps" as opposed to, say, "a smarter way to create apps." (Which would be a meaning that might have some traction in the group I work in.) Or I suppose you could interpret it as "a smarter way for us (Phone) to present apps to you (user)."

Certainly app has been established as a noun, and there was the interesting tussle earlier in 2011 when Apple sued Amazon over the trademark "App Store."

But I haven't till now seen app being used as a verb. Of course, this is marketing, and those folks are nothing if not playful with grammar.

Monday, September 12, 2011

One Nissan Leaf, two Nissan ...

Now it's not just the Prius and its tricky plural. Nissan's electric car is the Leaf. Suppose you had two of them. They'd be ... Leaves? Leafs? June Casagrande thinks Leafs. So do I, and for the reason she mentions. (See my thots about the Prius.) You?

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The honey badgers of web development

First there was the honey badger, a badger-like creature that's apparently known for its "ferocious defensive abilities." Then there was a nature program (video) that explored the honey badger's appetite for such delicacies as bee larvae and cobras and its apparent indifference to bees and snakebite and venom and pain. And then there
was Randall's alternate narration (video) for that nature documentary, from which all the world learned that "Honey badger don't care. Honey badger don't give a shit."

Like it? Get the t-shirt or the poster.

Right, this isn't news; the Know Your Meme site has a nice piece that recounts the brief history. (It also came up in the TV show "Glee," which is nothing if not culturally au courant.)

What's fun is watching the term honey badger go generic. Earlier this year, Mignon Fogarty (aka Grammar Girl) tweeted this:

Honey badger don't care about "i.e." and "e.g." (, but you should:

That was in May; note that she uses the full phrase and includes a link for the as-then-still uninitiated. But yesterday I found this in a technical article:

Then there are the honey badgers of web development, the notorious Content Management Systems, designed to kill all your hopes and dreams.

No "don't care" here; no link. You either get it or don't.[1]

This is what really interests me; is it possible for the term honey badger to become decoupled from any explicit reference to Randall's video and enter the lexicon as a synonym for, dunno, "indifference" ("aggressive indifference"?). That would be pretty awesome for Randall, and awesome to have seen it happen.

1 As an aside, from an editorial perspective, the article is filled with cultural references and is too clever by half, as people say. Woe onto the non-English-as-first-language speaker (non-American?) who reads this. Entertaining, tho. :-)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Organize and humorize

A little tongue-in-cheek (mostly) humorization from The New Yorker:

I say "mostly" because although they used a hyphen in the body of the ad, they don't in the subject line of the email where I saw this.

Update: This is an ad for a desk calendar, in case that isn't clear, oops.

I personally have no problem with -izing nouns, but some folks do ("seemingly lazy application of this custom").

Friday, August 12, 2011

True only if you don't say it about yourself

It's always bugged me, too, this thing where a person or a company takes pains to tell you what they think their virtues are:

  • I'm a classy person.
  • I'm an educated person.
  • I'm a modest person.
  • (Most any reference to "elegant" in a product description.)
  • etc.

Now John Scalzi has coined a term for this: McKean's inversion. He describes it this way:

The adjective a person says they are is frequently the thing they are not.

The name McKean's inversion originates via an indirect route. Erin McKean is a lexicographer (among her other talents) who once stated what's come to be known as McKean's Law: "Any correction of the speech or writing of others will contain at least one grammatical, spelling, or typographical error." Scalzi knows McKean and says he remembers how she once observed that ...

... if someone used the word to describe themselves, it was often quite obvious that they were in fact the opposite.

Thus the inversion. And as noted, McKean's Law was already taken.

It's a little early to tell, but my sense is that this is intended to be used for instances where the person is being a bit clueless. It would therefore not work when they're simply being disingenuous, e.g., "I'm just a humble technical writer." But who knows?

Friday, August 05, 2011

One media to rule them all

Not a surprising neologism in retrospect, but then again, good ones always seem obvious after the fact:

... etc., about 23K hits in all on teh Google. The term seems to be a particular favorite of John Pilger.

Definition? Well, dunno, something like this:

Murdoch's immense political power , which has had successive Prime Ministers dancing attendance on him, and rushing to confer lucrative favors on his News Corporation.
(Thanks to James Galasyn for finding this one.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Legitimate illegitimists?

It's not often you get to watch a new word being launched, but we might have one here. On Slate yesterday, Anne Applebaum gave it a shot:
In contemporary America, we also have people who are — and I am inventing this word here — illegitimists: They believe that the president of the United States is illegitimately elected, or that the country is ruled by a cabal that is in turn controlled by some other sinister force or forces.
(She is careful to note that her intent is to be agnostic with respect to political persuasion, by noting that this also described Marxists in an earlier era. Not everyone buys this attempt.)

Just as a word, illegitimist is not unknown. It has no dictionary entry in standard dictionaries (at least, as per and Even the mighty OED does not have a specific entry for this term. However, there is a precedent or two:

  • In Treitschke's History of Germany in the Nineteeth Century, we find "... must play the magnanimous protector of the illegitimist Isabella."
  • J. E. P. Boulden has a play named Medicine; or, the legitimists and the illegitimists.
But these are slightly different meanings, I deduce; these refer to people who are illegitimate, as opposed to people who question the legitimacy of something.

This seems like a handy term to me. It covers more ground than various specific manifestations of illegitimism (birthers are her poster child). It gets at a kind of core belief system that's independent of the specifics of why the illegitimist thinks the government is illegitimate, and even which government (or other authority) is being thusly considered.

One could imagine the term being used outside a political context, I suppose. You might use some term and point at the American Heritage Dictionary as your authority, and I could be an illegitimist about that authority. Or we could use the term to debate someone's religious beliefs and the sources thereof; or, if the term really dug in, we could use it to refer to anyone who questions any claim made by an appeal to authority. That seems unlikely, but you never know. Still, the term has to start somewhere. Let's see how it goes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

PepsiCo and the future of snack terms

The May 16, 2011 edition of The New Yorker has a fascinating article ("Snacks for a Fat Planet," paywall) about the PepsiCo's efforts to try to divine their future markets. It's also fascinating for an unusual number of neological-type terms and for the not-entirely-clear formula they're using to determine whether to put presumably unfamiliar terms inside quotation marks.

The two terms that struck me first were drinkified (for foods) and snackified (for drinks). Here's a cite that sums it up:

Let's say you give a kid a carrot," Nooyi [CEO] explained. "And he says, 'I don't want to eat a carrot.' But you say, 'I tell you what, I'll give it to you in a wonderful drinkable form that's still as close to the carrot as possible.' All of a sudden, what have I done? I've drinkified the snack! Or I take a fruit juice and give it to you in a wonderful squeezable form, which is Tropolis. What have I done now? I've snackified the drink.

There are ~9000 hits on Google for drinkified; many of them reference this same thing (either the article or similar stories about PepsiCo).

I'm just going to go out on a limb here and muse that these two terms are going to irritate a lot of people.

As I say, there were some other terms in the article as well. One is, I think, of Pepsi origin, others are from other fields, but relatively unfamiliar. Let's say that there are a lot of quotation marks in the article around terms. Here's my list:

  • reward sensitivity -- a term from psychology (?) referring to how easily people are satisfied. (Something that people who design snacks take into account.) No quotation marks in the article. (34K Google hits.)
  • bliss point -- the point at which you achieve satisfaction, same context. In quotation marks. (48K Google hits.)
  • sip and spit, e.g. sip and spit rooms -- the technique used for tasting. In quotation marks. (Familiar from wine and coffee tasting, I suppose -- 160K Google hits.)
  • blue-can Pepsi -- the traditional/original version of Pepsi. No quotation marks. (8K Google hits.)
Not all new terms, but new enough, I guess, that John Seabrook (or some editor) decided that some -- but not all -- needed to be marked.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

From Greek battles to all-day presentations

One of the VPs where I work is a guy named Scott Guthrie, who's one of those people who seems to be able to pack about 48 hours into a day. In addition to VP-ing, whatever that exactly consists of, he flies around the world giving presentations -- often keynote speeches -- to large and enthusiastic audiences of programmers.

A diversion. At Microsoft (and, I imagine, many other places), the basic algorithm that they use to assign you an email name is first name + last initial. For example, an email alias that's well know at Microsoft is billg. However, if you've got a common name (like Mike, for example), they have to do something else. One possibility is to start adding letters to the last name. As a result, Scott Guthrie's email address is scottgu. Partly because we seem to have so many Scotts in our division, this has led to VP Guthrie being referred to as "Gu" or even "the Gu" (pronounced "goo," of course). Example: "We're meeting tomorrow with the Gu about this."*

And now to wrench the discussion to a new track. Once upon a time there was a battle near the Greek city named Marathon, and a dude named Pheidippides started a trend by supposedly running some insane distance to announce an Athenian victory. (And this before Gatorade.) Now a marathon is a really long race, or by extension, "any contest, event, or the like, of great, or greater than normal, length or duration or requiring exceptional endurance." Example: dance marathon, sales marathon.

But why use a full name like dance marathon when you can use, so to speak, first name + last bit? The -athon suffix is very productive. Here's just a few of the many, many examples I found:

Almost all the usages I've found use a hyphen to mark either -athon or -a-thon. (The latter spelling suggests that -thon could by itself be the suffix, but I haven't found an example.) The exception is walkathon, which might have become sufficiently established to be thought of as a single word rather than a conscious construction, dunno.

Back to the Gu. I'm not sure how many people use "Gu" as a vocative in Scott's presence, but he's well aware of it. So much so, in fact, that Scott decided to refer to the occasional all-day presentation that he gives as a Guathon. We hope, of course, that this refers only to the "greater than normal length or duration" of the event and not to it "requiring exceptional endurance." :-)

* There is, I'm sure, a study somewhere that examines the phenomenon of referring to people in the third person by their email aliases -- at Microsoft, the once-feared "BillG review" has, AFAIK, no other name.

Monday, April 04, 2011

It's useless, but somehow not

Twitter. Even ardent supporters admit that if you describe Twitter in simple terms ("you post whatever pops into your head, many times a day!"), it does seem lame. Someone once called it "the stupidest application you’re ever going to see."

Yet this was someone who thought it was great. Fans have a hard time describing to the unconvinced why Twitter is so great. Scott Hanselman -- prolific blogger, early adopter, and unabashed supporter -- came up with a term that seems to capture this combination of banality and utility in his blog post Twitter: The Uselessfulness of Micro-blogging. In fact, Hanselman goes one better in a subsequent post -- he calls Twitter a river of uselessfulness, and a river (indeed, torrent) it is.

It's an amusing neologism, what with its oxymoronic melding and clever way of both anticipating and retorting to the common criticism of Twitter.

Perhaps surprisingly, this is not the only citation. I found one instance from a time before Scott's blog post, and meaning roughly the same thing (I think), but in a very different context. This is from a forum post that pertains to pickup trucks:
Nothing fancy and of debatable uselessfullness (probably should never be in 4Hi with lockers ON). Maybe some cases in sand dunes or snow, but not much else.
Or perhaps this is just a bit of a mistake. Note that the author here includes "debatable," which I think is unnecessary if you stick to your guns with the new term.

I did find another instance, more recent, but this one is clearly intended with a different meaning.
Uselessfulness. Yes that is now a word. A term we are coining for Tuscon artist Nick Georgiou who takes useless trash (pretty much anything print) and creates amazing useful works of art.
And one more, which came up in the context of a programming blog, a post titled Shuffle: an extension method of random uselessfulness. In this case, the author simply uses the word with no real additional context. I believe the implication is that he's presenting a programming technique that is of perhaps no real use, but it's actually not that clear to me why he's using the term or what he means by it.

I know Scott a little bit, enough to ask him about this term. He confirms that he invented the term for his original blog post. I'm guessing that these other instances are probably independent inventions, or in the last case (the programming blog), maybe it's one of Scott's readers taking up the term and propagating it.

A fun exercise would be to think of new places to wield this term. The concept certainly isn't strange, so there should be lots of candidates. :-)

Friday, April 01, 2011

Truthiness and falsiness

Stephen Colbert put the term truthiness on the map (pdf), but there is a context where the terms truthy and falsy have another, quite precise meaning. This is among people who use the programming language known as JavaScript, which runs in web browsers. The following explanation, by Mike Davies, appears on the isolani blog:
JavaScript has keywords for true and false, but like many C-style derivative languages, it has concepts of truthy and falsy. These are non-boolean expressions that can be treated as a boolean value. The number zero is falsy, and any other number is truthy. Equally for strings, an empty string is falsy, and a non-empty string is truthy.
A slight variation from another blog:
When javascript is expecting a boolean and it’s given something else, it decides whether the something else is "truthy" or "falsy". An empty string (''), the number 0, null, NaN, a boolean FALSE, and undefined variables are all "falsy". Everything else is “truthy”.
(NaN here refers to a value known as "not a number", which JavaScript returns when it needs a number but gets something else, like if you try to add 12 + "a". A discussion for another time: does boolean get a cap?)

I'm not finding a lot of references to these terms outside JavaScript. One blogger uses the terms when referring to the Clojure programming language, and I found a couple of references to falsy in some text about the language Python. Contrary to what the first cite suggests, truthy and falsy are not, at least as far as I can tell, used in descriptions of the C language or its close cousins C++ or Java.

Truthy does have a dictionary definition, which is listed as "Truthful; likely; probable." It seems to me that the JavaScript definition does not match this; in JavaScript we're not talking about likelihood or probability, just a collection of values that all are treated the same (i.e., as true).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I don't have a smartphone, I have ...

Those of us who haven't quite gotten with the smartphone wave are stuck using, you know, older cellphones. While everyone we know goes on at tedious length about their iPhone or Android or Windows 7 phone and all the many apps that they play with, we have ... that other kind of cellphone. What kind is that, exactly? Not a dumbphone, except in jest. (Or exasperation.) Do you know?

There is a formal term, actually: it's a feature phone. (2.6 MM hits on Google.)

There are some interesting things here. One is that this is a kind of retronym; the term feature phone is defined primarily by what it's not. What it's not, however, has changed a bit. If Wikipedia is to be believed, a feature phone was originally a phone that had more features than the original set of monochrome, just-talk cellphones. (Cite.) However, these days, since those old-skool phones are pretty much gone, a feature phone is a phone that has fewer features than its successor, namely a smartphone. Or both at once -- this article describes it this way:
Feature phones, [which] are dumb phones that have elements (but not the full connectivity) of smartphones.
And here's another wrinkle: the term smartphone itself has had something of a movable definition. Or even a circular one. Here's Wikipedia:
A smartphone is a mobile phone that offers more advanced computing ability and connectivity than a contemporary feature phone.
The article goes on to describe the first smartphone (1992) as having many of the features that people would probably consider smartphone-ish:
[...] it also contained a calendar, address book, world clock, calculator, notepad, e-mail, send and receive fax, and games. It had no physical buttons to dial with. Instead customers used a touchscreen to select telephone numbers with a finger or create facsimiles and memos with an optional stylus. Text was entered with a unique on-screen "predictive" keyboard. By today's standards, the Simon would be a fairly low-end product, lacking for example the camera now considered usual.
1992? Impressive.

Note that this implicitly says that smartphones today include cameras, i.e., part of the definition (necessary but not sufficient) is that there's a camera. It don't do the trick if it ain't got that click.

But the term smartphone itself is even older than that. Paul McFedries finds a cite that goes back to 1984, where of course it meant something a bit different:
Part of the transparent keyboard facility is the ability to deal with the telephone through the "smartphone" option, which makes it possible to answer the phone (using a headset) with the computer.
Not today's definition, I think we can agree. It's tempting to say that smartphone simply means "whatever the newest state of phone technology is," but that isn't supported by actual usage citations. Still, it does lead a body to speculate what we'll call the next generation of phones, which will have the ability to ... golly, what? I can't even imagine. But it's a sure thing that the current generation of iPhones et al. will someday seem quaintly primitive. At that point, it's hard to imagine that we'll still be calling them smartphones. Or what we'll call the new ones.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Under the table and DRMing

I was in a meeting at work the other day when someone emitted a sentence that started this way:

I got some information DRM'd to me that …

It took me a second to parse this. (In fact, I think I got so interested in DRM'd that might have missed what it was that had in fact been DRM'd.)

DRM stands for digital rights management, which is a blanket term for protecting (or "protecting," if you want to be more cynical) digital media like, say, music files or movies. Let's say for convenience that it means something like "restrict." It's a pretty easy leap to turn this into a verb, and indeed, Mr. Google tells us that there are several hundred thousand instances of the term DRM'd . (Exercise for the student: calculate the percentage of these mentions in which the term is used in a positive way, haha.)

What threw me in the particular usage I heard, tho, was that DRM was being used as a verb that meant more than just "restricted": the information had been DRM'd to the recipient. This, I think, requires a particular context to make sense, a context that happens to obtain where I work, but probably is not all that widespread. (Maybe it is; y'all can tell me.)

Our email system at work is based on Microsoft Exchange and uses Microsoft Outlook as its client. This combination of technologies supports a feature named Information Rights Management whereby the author of an email can set restrictions/permissions on an email message for who can see it, and which restricts things like whether you can forward the message or even copy from it.

By saying I got information DRM'd to me, our interlocutor had managed to compress into this one verb that a) she had received an email via Outlook that b) had been tagged with IRM permissions because c) it had "eyes only" information, and that d) she could not forward us this information.

If was pretty good information density for an off-the-cuff remark. I have not (that I know of) heard DRM used as a verb in exactly this way before. It might be a one-off that occurred to her in the moment. Even if it is more widespread than that, this exact usage seems like it would be restricted to a limited context in which all of the conditions (permissions + Outlook) apply.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Gasmic consciousness, Part II

I while back we visited -gasm as a productive suffix. It's still going strong, as evidenced by some nice examples I've run across recently. For example, I found this in a comment about a political ad that featured a lot of (intended-to-be) stirring images of America:
The patriotgasm certainly seems Michael Bay-like.
This sent me searching, which yielded the following without much effort:
These came up, by the way, because they are either political sites (hence "patriot") or sports sites (hence "New England Patriots").

Update 20 March 2011: "Apple starts this frenzy or what I call an iGasm." (#)

Something of note here is that the meaning of -gasm as used in these examples seems to still primarily be "intense or unrestrained excitement", but that it seems also to have a negative connotation in almost all of these examples. It's used derogatorily to refer to people who have unrestrained enthusiasm for something the author is not enthusiastic about (guns, Obama, people's use of Twitter) -- a kind of after-the-fact "Don't have a cow" wish. That was not the case last time we visited -gasm. Perhaps it has to do with the narrow search I did. (?)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lost in the search-result woods

The proto-conservative radio commentator Paul Harvey used to use the phrase "Page 2" to segue from the news portion to the advertisement portion of his show. This became a beloved catchphrase, and in his case, the transition proved to be a goldmine for his sponsors.

For a Google search, tho, it's all about page 1; according to one study, "sites surveyed received more than 95% of all their non-branded natural search traffic from page-one results." There's a lively industry around getting a site onto Google's first page. Because if you're not on page 1, you are ... what? "In the wilderness"? "At the back of the pack"?

Tom Krazit, for one, has a term for it:
Links to prominent services like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Flickr carry a lot of weight with Google, and can push unwanted content to the Google Ghetto, otherwise known as page two.
It's not a very PC term. Even among objective definitions, there aren't any that suggest that a ghetto has positive connotations, not to mention the complex associations between ghetto and touchy socio-economic issues.

But you have to admit that the phrase does evoke the idea of a place you probably don't want to live. And there's the catchy alliteration.

I can't at the moment find any other use of this term to mean the same thing. Or let's say that if there are other mentions, they're not on page ... haha, too easy.