Tech terms muscle in on dictionary
Buzz words ... more and more tech-related terms are being added to the dictionary. Photo: Karen Neumann
The technology industry is never short of a buzzword or acronym. From attempts to coin the latest "next big thing" to marketing spin trying to make concepts sound both highly intelligent and yet simple - or "important sounding management consultant speak" - the ICT industry is unequivocally guilty of bastardising languages sometimes to the point of incomprehensibility.
But in many cases the influence is something that society accepts and even canonises in official dictionaries. Language was never meant to be static after all.
In the past three years, Australia's word of the year, as espoused by the Macquarie Dictionary and its panel of judges, has been a tech-related term twice. In 2009, it was "tweet" and in 2010 it was "googleganger".
Other terms like "cloud server", "jailbreak", "tweep" and "e-bomb" - all with intriguing defintions that you can check out here - have also made the sub-categories of the word of the year event.
The Macquarie Dictionary 2012 Australian Word of the Year opened for votes on January 7.
Macquarie Dictionary editor Susan Butler said the influence of ICT was "very strong at the moment".
"The rate at which this happens depends on events," Butler said. "The '80s produced a rush of computer terms, the late '90s started a similar flow of internet terms. New gadgets, upgrades, etc, require new entries in the dictionary.
"But it is not all to do with gadgetry and devices. The fifth edition of the dictionary published in 2004 had about 1000 new entries relating to the environment, a major project which was sparked off by the carbon tax and the debate about global warming. So it just depends on what is happening in the world."
Butler explained that technical terms are included in the dictionary if they meet one of two criteria:
- If they have found their way into the mainstream for one reason or another. A good test of this is "Are you likely to encounter the term in your reading of the morning newspaper?"
- If they belong to a set of terms which are included because one or more of them has become mainstream but the rest are needed to round out the set.
Specialist fields with lots of jargon won't make it into the dictionary as the Macquarie limits its inclusions to those words "which we think that a general reader might encounter in their wide reading".
Still, with the pervasiveness of technology, there is little doubt that what the University of Adelaide's professor Ghil'ad Zuckermann calls "talknology" will continue to have an impact.
"As I see it, what I call talknology (from talk plus technology) is the fourth linguistic revolution - after the emergence of language more than 70,000 years ago, the emergence of writing more than 5000 years ago and the emergence of printing press more than 575 years ago," Zuckermann said.
"The impact of talknology on Strine [Australian English] in particular and language in general cannot be overstated. In the vernacular [spoken language], there are dozens of neologisms [new words] conveying new talknological concepts that have become taken-for-granted daily phenomena, such as app and blog. The change to the written language is dramatic."
The RMIT University school of business IT and logistics professor, John Lenarcic, agreed that the influence of tech on language is pervasive.
"Pop culture is now full of references to what would previously be dubbed tech-talk, be they social media related or otherwise," he said. "In the past people Xeroxed documents, now we Google for information. Another case of a product becoming a verb ... telegrams and telex have gone the way of the dinosaur and morphed into tweets."
So what are the terms that both IT and business leaders need to be across for 2013?
For Lenarcic anything with "cloud" in it and in the higher education field "the new buzz term is MOOC" or massive open online course.
Another guide is to look at all the ICT predictions from all the analyst firms, vendors and even enterprise IT leaders for the latest lingo.
Doing this would force you to, yes, perhaps cringe, but also brush up on the following:
- Big data
- Software defined networks (SDN) or software defined data centres
- M2M or machine to machine
- the internet of things
- converged infrastructure
- machine learning
- social business
- open data
- data scientists
- and any acronym that starts with "BYO"
Leave a comment with other buzz words you think will make an impact in 2013.