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November 11, 2011


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I'm a bit dubious about how widespread some of these terms really were. As I know from various collections of so-called Microspeak, there are terms that really have currency ... and then there are terms that are cutesy and someone just liked the sound of. One reason for my skepticism is that I lived through this age, up close and personal, which included reading Wired (often on paper), yet a number of these terms I've never heard of. (I don't mean to suggest that I have encyclopedic knowledge of the IT slang of the late 90s, but I was at least there, being snippy about AOL with everyone else, haha.)

Still, there's nothing as fleeting as slang, eh? Except possibly technology.

Mike: The author acknowledges that many of the terms are nonce words: "Many terms come from a certain subcultural orbit and stay there; others are not necessarily practical for everyday usage but were entertaining or illustrative enough to publish anyway. The Jargon Watch column has always been more about entertainment and humor than rigor and lexicographical correctness, more Snigglets than Webster's."

I was interested less in the terms themselves than in the mid-90s Zeitgeist they summon up--an era of pay phones and beepers, AOL and Kevorkian.

I can remember the last time I used a pay phone. It was at an airport several years ago, before I had a cell phone. I didn't have any change, so I used my credit card. The charge didn't show up on my activity for a few weeks, and when it did, I didn't recognize it. It was for about eight bucks (for a call that lasted less than a minute) to some telecom company in Britain. I thought it was fraudulent and cancelled my credit card before I figured it out. Apparently I used a pseudophone.

Ah, yes, good point. In that respect it's along the lines of one of those emails that one gets that say things like "people who graduate from high school this year have never lived without the Web," etc. Payphones indeed. I marvel that they still exist -- altho the last one I've seen is in that vault of technology that's just past its pull date, namely the local library.

Incidentally, "permalancer" is better known around here as "permatemp." My employer settled an extremely expensive lawsuit with a cadre of same, which led to some ... inconveniences associated with trying to hire contractors. Story for another time.

Anyway, thanks for the post and the picture of that lovely typography. (Should you somehow have missed it, I do recommend the book "Just My Type" by Simon Garfield.)

I'm familiar with a different version of "facetime." That's the time you put in at your desk where your boss can see you; when you are present, but not necessarily working, as opposed to time you are working but not present. Companies that still track facetime rather than productivity might be said to be stuck in the 90s.

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