Re: Have you ever felt the need to create a new word?

Subject: Re: Have you ever felt the need to create a new word?
From: "Sean Hower" <hokumhome -at- freehomepage -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2006 08:11:09 -0700

> Surag R reported:
> In one of my projects, there was a term "statused" in the UI.
The problem with this example is that someone can guess at the meaning. Sure, someone might look at it and think, "oh, they're using it as a verb" but I seriously doubt anyone would look at it and simply not know what it means. With that in mind, your manager's repsonse was not very surprising. You probably sounded pedantic and therefore easily dismissable. Now, if you were to conduct user research and were able to prove the your users were confused by that term, well, then you would have a business case that could be used to make a change.

After 8 years in the software industry, I would actually be pleased to see such a short neologism being used in the interface, especially in an industry that thinks piling nouns together is the height of linguistic prowess.

> Bill Swallow wrote:
> I don't create new words. Generally what I pull out of my... um...
> head... ;-) won't be easy to translate into other languages or be
> understood the same way across cultures.
Now this is a valid concern. Again, though, with an invention such as "statused" the translator, hopefully, would get it because the meaning can be inferred and because the translator would have experience with similar linguistic innovations in their own language. That experience would enable the translator to figure out that even though the word is not "in the dictionary" as such, the writer may have invented a meaning. Such suspicions could be confirmed by checking a glossary, exploring the interface, or asking the appropriate emplpoyees about the meaning. With that understanding, it would then be left up to the translator to decide how to handle the usage. Is this any worse than the horrible naming schemes that are already used in software?

> David Loveless confessed:
> I uphold rigorous standards of "correctness." However,
> in my own speech, I use the words that convey the meaning as I want it
> conveyed, and sometimes a phrase such as "more better" conveys a
> concept that is better than another with an added sense of fun. I've
> even been known to say "ain't" (*gasp!!!) and other such
> colloquialisms with a straight face.
<applause rounds="3" /> I whole-heartedly agree. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you have linguist blood running in your veins.

I guess my point is that, even when it's not necessary, innovation can be useful--either as entertainment or to enforce a sense of consistency. What that consistency might be, I suppose would depend on the context. I'm not saying that innovation should be used as an excuse for not expanding one's vocabulary. I am saying that innovation should not be spurned out of dogmatic inflexibility. There is a middle ground, which is probably held to a higher standard by people who work with words than the rest of the populace.

Sean Hower - communications specialist

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