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"New" Words From the Geek Culture 191

Posted by kdawson
from the bonny-earl-of-murray dept.
thatskinnyguy sends news of Merriam-Webster's 2008 list of new words and, to no-one's surprise, a good number of them come out of geek culture: words like webinar, malware, netroots, pretexting, and fanboy are now official words according to M-W. The CNet article pulls out one "new" word for special appreciation — mondegreen — and, while the article gets the origin right, it ends with a lame call for readers to send in their favorite mondegreens. (CNet does have the good grace to link the Kiss This Guy site.) SFGate columnist Jon Carroll has been collecting readers' mondegreens since 1995 and his list is bound to be better. Quoting Carroll, in a prophetic mode: "This space has been for some years the chief publicity agent for mondegreens. The Oxford English Dictionary has not yet seen the light, but it will, it will." Would you believe, Merriam-Webster's?
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"New" Words From the Geek Culture

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  • Is it wrong... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ickoonite (639305) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @02:14AM (#24113125) Homepage
    ...that I don't know what almost all these words mean? What is a "webinar" for example? I guess I'm just not cool anymore... :|
    • Re:Is it wrong... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @02:15AM (#24113137)

      Webinar : Seminar on the web, usually using youtube, flash or some other video/podcast like medium.

      • by Hognoxious (631665) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @03:07AM (#24113477) Homepage Journal

        Unfortunately the parent's name is unknown, or we'd have a good candidate for a new word to denote a dim pillock who explains jokes. And, while the angels weep, gets modded up for it.

      • Re:Is it wrong... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by owlnation (858981) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @05:39AM (#24114287)
        No, I don't think webinar's geek word... it sounds disturbingly like a... BUZZWORD!

        Disown it!

        And seriously, what does mondegreen have to do with geek either -- nor is it in any way a new word. This seems like a another sockpuppet article designed to generate traffic for a website.
        • "This seems like a another sockpuppet article designed to generate traffic for a website."

          Don't tell anyone, but articles - in newspapers or on the web - are almost always written to generate "traffic". This is true even for "free" publications, which get funded by advertising commensurate to their volume of readership. Shhh ....

      • Webinar : Seminar on the web, usually using youtube, flash or some other video/podcast like medium, used by people who have only attended lecture-format courses.

        You see, the problem with "webinars" is that in actual practice they have little to do with interactive discussion and everything to do with a lecture.

    • by Freaky Spook (811861) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @02:28AM (#24113229)

      What is a "webinar" for example?

      It was invented by a group of HR people. They needed a cool new word for "webcast", so people wouldn't get angry when they found out that instead of spending a week at retreat on professional development, they were to be locked in a room with a projector instead.

    • Re:Is it wrong... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Brain Damaged Bogan (1006835) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @02:35AM (#24113287)
      "web seminar" it's not a geek term at all, but a marketing one. my old boss used to love these damn things and every time he'd say the word "webinar" a peice of me died a little inside
      • by techpawn (969834) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @07:23AM (#24115015) Journal

        every time he'd say the word "webinar" a peice of me died a little inside

        THANK YOU
        First time I heard this was from our marketing guy my response was along the lines of a shutter and yelling at him to NEVER use that word again in front of me. They are web presentations. Webinar is a new word for the bullsh*t bingo card.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by sg3000 (87992) *

          There are lots of words that marketing drones create that are irritating, but "webinar" has a purpose.

          A webinar -- in the context my company uses it -- is more like a web-based seminar. Both a seminar and a webinar are targeted to an external audience (outside the company), have a moderator (usually a third party person), and may be hosted by more than one company. A webinar is more expensive than just a regular "web presentation" since there's some logistics involved (hiring a third party to set it up and

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by bkr1_2k (237627)

          my response was along the lines of a shutter and yelling at him to NEVER...

          Does that count as a mondegreen, or just poor command of English?

    • by flaming error (1041742) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @02:35AM (#24113289) Journal
      webinar, n:
      1) something formed by or as if by weaving. There's a spider webinar garage
    • by TheMidnight (1055796) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @02:37AM (#24113303)

      I find it egregious that it took until 2007 to add "w00t" to the dictionary. I was using w00t back in the Warcraft II and Command & Conquer days.

      Now if you'll excuse me, I have some juvenile delinquents that I need to evict from my grass.

    • Re:Is it wrong... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Hal_Porter (817932) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @02:50AM (#24113391)

      Even if you can guess what it means, it's always good fun to pounce on neologisms and jargon and grill the user why they are using them instead of a more traditional word. My Dad told me a great story. He worked for the University which was under pressure from its new Thatcher appointed Vice Chancellor to be more 'commercially oriented' while no one really knew in practice what this meant. The VC gave a speech full or management consultancyisms and uses the word proactive. Someone stood up and asked him if he meant active. The VC blusters and the questioner keeps arguing. After a very long time the VC says "ok, you win I meant active". The questioner sat down. The VC delivered the rest of the speech without much enthusiasm and left without allowing questions from the floor.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by genik76 (1193359)
        Proactive is the opposite of reactive, which are both something else than "active". Maybe you could say that proactive and reactive as words are refinements of the word active, which the VC apparently failed to communicate.
        • Re:Is it wrong... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MrNemesis (587188) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @04:23AM (#24113915) Homepage Journal

          Primarily because, in my experience, most users of the word "pro-active" are unaware of it's anti-reactive connotations and use it to describe singularly reactive situations ("I want us to respond to this pro-actively"), or even in just syntax-ruining "I've learnt a cool new word" non-sequiturs ("our new rubber grommets have a 100% pro-active paradigm"). In other words, I'm convinced that alot of people use it because they think it sounds More Important than "active" or lack the vocabulary to better describe it.

          It's kinda acceptable in most sysadmin circles as most geeks are aware of things like "pro-active" support (I prefer to call it preventative maintenance myself since it means less fuzzyness for the recipient, which we abbreviate to premaint in conversation) but neologisms are mostly a matter of taste. /spot the word-snob ;)

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            In other words, I'm convinced that alot of people use it

            The Guide to Alot
            a lot many Steph had a lot of apples.
            allot to divide They alloted 2 apples per person
            alot no meaning I found alot of errors in there post!

          • "I want us to respond to this pro-actively"

            I like that one. I think I'll use it today, just to see if anyone catches the oxymoron.

            BTW, being "proactive" is what we used to call "taking initiative", but I suppose that phrase may have had its origin in management-speak, as well...

            • "Proactive" is a perfectly good English word. It just sucks when management/consultant types misuse it while trying to sound clever.

              This is usually done by the sort of person who says "utilise" instead of "use" and doesn't know the difference between the nouns "use" and "usage".

            • It is absolutely possible to react in a proactive manner. It is not an oxymoron. For example, if someone pulls a knife, one can react by trying to defend oneself, or one can be proactive and rush them and remove the knife from their control.
          • by jez9999 (618189)

            You must experience a lot of stupid people.

            I usually hear it being used correctly; for example, "we need to tackle the problem of the population getting ill proactively".

          • Re:Is it wrong... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by g0at (135364) <benNO@SPAMzygoat.ca> on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:23AM (#24117079) Homepage Journal

            For a self-described "word snob" I'm surprised you bungled "its" ("it's") and "a lot" ("alot"). :)

          • by Jurily (900488)

            (I prefer to call it preventative maintenance myself)

            At my old job, that was the phrase they used for "cleaning".

            Also, I use it as "the act of tapping the box with a hammer before a Windows or Gentoo install, just so it knows what to expect upon failure".

        • by digitig (1056110)

          Proactive is the opposite of reactive, which are both something else than "active".

          You know that and I know that, but apparently the VC giving the speech didn't know that, and the questioner successfully called his bluff. The point isn't that the words don't have useful meanings, it's that people use them to hype up their message without actually knowing those useful meanings.

        • `When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

          `The question is,' said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

          `The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master - - that's all.'

      • by Hognoxious (631665) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @04:13AM (#24113871) Homepage Journal
        If I was VC and some little tosspot interrupted me like that, I'd tell him to fuck right off. You can do that when you're VC.
    • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @07:54AM (#24115409)

      I guess I'm just not cool anymore...

      Oh, dear. Epic coolness fail! Newspeak is made of win. You are not a legend.

    • Mondegreen: Named after Lord Alfred Fredrick Mondegreen of Cornwall, who legend has it was was a total poseur douche when it came to music.
      • by _anomaly_ (127254)

        I realize that you must be joking, but for those who didn't read the linked page to the sfgate columnist (here [sfgate.com]), this is the story according to him:

        For those of you who have not yet received the pamphlet (mailed free to anyone who buys me an automobile), the word Mondegreen, meaning a mishearing of a popular phrase or song lyric, was coined by the writer Sylvia Wright.

        As a child she had heard the Scottish ballad "The Bonny Earl of Murray" and had believed that one stanza went like this:

        Ye Highlands and Ye L

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @02:20AM (#24113171)

    You spelled "fanboi" wrong.

    Sincerely,

    AC

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @02:23AM (#24113197)

    Witness the birth of a new geek word on Arstechnica forum:

    pludge
    verb
    1 [ intrans. ] to install an operating system update before verifying that it's safe to do so on the [Ars Mac forum]

    http://episteme.arstechnica.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/8300945231/m/953002313931

    The thread is now the third link on Google if you search for the word.

    • by Hes Nikke (237581)

      if i had mod points, i'd mod you up! (btw, it was number 1 on google for me)

    • SCNR (Score:5, Funny)

      by Jesus_666 (702802) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @03:53AM (#24113763)

      pludge verb 1 [ intrans. ] to install an operating system update before verifying that it's safe to do so on the [Ars Mac forum]

      syn. "use Gentoo Linux"

    • So this is simply a word coined to describe the regular practices of Microsoft...
  • For shame (Score:5, Insightful)

    by consonant (896763) <shrikant@n.gmail@com> on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @02:31AM (#24113249) Homepage

    I realize being a language Nazi is nerdy, even by Slashdot standards, but this summary is just shockingly awful!

    The headline reads "\"New\" Words From The Geek Culture". So the summary starts off with a single line on it, then randomly rambles on about CNet focusing on 'mondegreens'. Bzzt! Summary-headline mismatch already! Now it's possible that kdawson is just mimicking TFA, which does the same, but that's a frcikin' blog post! Somehow, a rambling blog post has been distilled into (if it's possible) a fumbly summary as well!

    All this meandering is topped off with a quite inexplicable question: "Would you believe, Merriam-Webster's?"

    Seriously, WTF?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hal_Porter (817932)

      Coherence and originality as so Web 1.0. The Web 2.0 way is to get a bunch of uncredited articles and make a 'mashup' of them.

      Mind you, Mondegreen is a cool invention
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondegreen [wikipedia.org]

    • by Narpak (961733)
      Indeed. It is pretty ironic that a submission about words is that badly writen.

      I guess I might also be a bit of a language nerd. Rarely do I use "new" words when I write something, unless it is so someone I know very well. If I write something on the internet I try to be as easy to understand as I can make it. Often using new or complex words seem to distract or confuse; and language is supposed to inform and enlighten.

      However adding new words is good, no doubt about that. But the word have to be commonl
  • "How about a newspaper columnist and few geeks on the net?"

  • by ya really (1257084) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @02:49AM (#24113387)
    I gave up on Webster's as an authoritative source on the English language after they added bling [merriam-webster.com] to its dictionary. Noah Webster would be angered by the himbos [merriam-webster.com] now in charge of his publication. Perhaps the publishers are just part of the Sandwich generation [merriam-webster.com] and spend too much time with their parents while their mouse potato [merriam-webster.com] kids edit the dictionary for them.
    • Re:meh, Webster's (Score:5, Insightful)

      by StrawberryFrog (67065) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @03:17AM (#24113555) Homepage Journal

      I gave up on Webster's as an authoritative source on the English language after they added bling to its dictionary.

      Why shouldn't a dictionary have that word? People are going to use it, and other people are going to want to know what it means. A dictionary would be failing them by not including it.

      • Why shouldn't a dictionary have that word? People are going to use it, and other people are going to want to know what it means. A dictionary would be failing them by not including it.

        But how many times have you used mouse potato since 1993?

        • Re:meh, Webster's (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ya really (1257084) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @03:51AM (#24113745)
          In my honest opinion, I think Webster's adds buzz words like these mostly knowing it will give them free advertisement when the media lets everyone know what pop culture words are now somewhat legit. Dictionaries dont really need to add nonsense words that tend to be slang or are too silly to ever be used outside of a joke (looking at you webinar). For words like these, there's always urbandictionary.com. After all, wikipedia may have an article on Jenna Jameson [wikipedia.org], but Britannica [britannica.com] does not.
        • Re:meh, Webster's (Score:4, Insightful)

          by digitig (1056110) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @05:09AM (#24114121)

          But how many times have you used mouse potato since 1993?

          Isn't that exactly why it should be in a dictionary? Somebody reading something from the early 1990s might come across it and want to check their understanding of the meaning. If I'm reading old literature I'm rather glad that my dictionary includes "sweven" and "parfay" precisely because I don't normally use those words.

    • Re:meh, Webster's (Score:5, Insightful)

      by digitig (1056110) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @05:11AM (#24114131)

      I gave up on Webster's as an authoritative source on the English language after they added bling [merriam-webster.com] to its dictionary.

      What do you mean by "authoritative"? Do you think that the purpose of a dictionary is to tell you how the language should be used or to report how it actually is used? Most dictionary compilers see themselves as having the latter role, in which case "bling" certainly deserves a place.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by edalytical (671270)
      Well how else are they going to pimp their dictionary to metrosexuals?
    • by Bryansix (761547)
      Merriam Webster wrote the authoritative dictionary for the American English language by taking words in common usage and distilling the primary meanings and one spelling of them into a book. I'm sure the British thought it was all hogwash too back then but that wasn't the point. It wasn't supposed to chronicle the English language as it was over there but instead it was supposed to show what the English language had become over here. There is still a standard of showing common usage over a period of time be
  • Valid Joke (Score:5, Funny)

    by Joebert (946227) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @03:33AM (#24113655) Homepage
    I can finally tell someone their picture should be in the dictionary under fanboy.
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @03:43AM (#24113703)
    I wonder how much "staying power" some of these words will have. OK they've been around in specialised usages for some years, in an industry that's famous for making up new words. However, until they make the leap from being geek words to being words your mother would use I will still be sceptical that they haven't been properly accepted.

    This smacks of the dictionary trying to be overly trendy - I expect a lot of these will be quietly dropped from this dictionary in years to come.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by crossmr (957846)

      Very little.
      I remember the first year I read about this trend. They were inducting "bootylicious". During the same induction, they were also putting in some slang term from the 50s which actually had staying power.
      it was apparent then that it was pure attention-whoring (if you look this up in MW you'll find a link to MW). People shouldn't be giving dictionaries which include these types of words the time of day.

  • Newspeak (Score:3, Funny)

    by sporkme (983186) * on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @03:55AM (#24113775) Homepage
    Efforting - V - newspeak - The act of an incompetent journalistic organization to appear busy - "We are efforting to bring you more details."

    I am hearing this more and more... I say STFU and just say "trying" or "working on" instead of bullshitting us while trying to sound cromulent.

    On that note, while they're at it, they ought to add STFU to their little book o' words. It is a perfectly spatulant word and the English-speaking world would be metalopulant to finally instructulate it offically.
  • by bazorg (911295) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @04:27AM (#24113921) Homepage
    now all we need is to add "cromulent" to the dictionary.
  • Missing a word (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KinkyClown (574788) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @05:03AM (#24114081)
    Strange thing is the most important NEW word is still not in the m-w...

    slashdot
  • by jez9999 (618189)

    Several new words in MW were pulled from geek culture?

    Word.

  • Oxford English (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DanJ_UK (980165) *
    "The Oxford English Dictionary has not yet seen the light, but it will, it will." Oh but it won't.
  • by brokeninside (34168) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @07:36AM (#24115151)
    The Miriam-Webster folks document its first /recorded/ usage as early as 1919. Presumably, it had been in used in spoken form even earlier. So this is a case of the IT crowd adopting pre-existing slang rather than IT speak making its way out into the general culture. I gleaned this from the AP article [google.com]. The interesting thing to me is how old some of these new words are, like usage of wing nut to describe a radical out in the far wing of a political party dates back to 1900.
  • by MinusOne (4145) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @11:39AM (#24119525)

    I recall reading a Jon Carrol column in the SF Chronicle about mondegreens in about 1986. IT was at the least no later than 1987. And now that I look in Wikipedia, the word was coined in 1954:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondegreen

    Some people just take a very long time to catch up with the cool kids :)

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