The possible e-future of Itenglish

“I had a linguistics professor who said that it’s man’s ability to use language that makes him the dominant species on the planet. That may be. But I think there’s one other thing that separates us from animals. We aren’t afraid of vacuum cleaners.”

– Jeff Stilson

This week, a message from the future of the English tongue:

“We know how hard it is to cultivate relationships with customers. In just one hour of your valuable time, you will learn how customer relationship management…yada, yada, yada)…To register on-line, click here. Once you have registered for the Webinar, you will receive an e-mail confirmation with instructions.”

I received the above offer for an on-line seminar from Oracle Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. in a message from BackSpin reader Scott Dalgety. “A Webinar?,” Dalgety writes. “What the hell is a Webinar? OK, I get the similarity with seminar…But come on. Webinar? Being an expert on the subject, I ask you…at what point in journalistic history did this crossbreeding of words begin? Is it limited to technology, or can we have fun with it?”

Well, speaking as an expert, such linguistic confabulations have been going on since Ugg, the caveman, discovered marketing (“Ugg, what we call burned deer?” “Hmm, we call it ‘roast’.”).

Dalgety carried on: “Is a Webinar better than an e-seminar? Does a Webinar actually have a registrar? If so, can I e-register for the Webinar with the registrar? Or is it an e-registrar, in which case the registrar becomes the Webigstrar? So now I Webigster for the Webinar with the Webigstrar.”

Good points, Scott (who has since reduced his coffee consumption), and it makes one wonder what other terms we could come up with. For example, last week I coined the term “flashmercial” for the infomercials created with Macromedia Flash that are popping up on Web sites all over the ‘net, and I was dang proud of my contribution to the English language.

So let’s see, what else? Would a virtual meeting on the Web become a Weeting? Or if it happened over the ‘net and not over the Web might it be a Neeting?

Will Web mail become We-mail or possible w-mail (pronounced wuh-mail)? Could e-mail with HTML formatting be HT-MaiL (pronounced h-t-em-ale)? (Darn, “HT-MaiL”…that’s good!)

Might tech support over the Web become Webnical support, Webbort, Wupport or Webort? Might customer service, similarly, become Wustomer service, Webtomer service or simply Wervice?

I suppose we could extend the same thinking to things that are networked. Network-attached storage could be netrage, narage or norrage. Network servers are, of course, nervers or netvers.

In the realm of more specialized servers, application servers turn into appvers and database servers into dubsers. Mail servers might become mervers, mersers, mailsers or mailvers, unless one prefers the term “e-mail servers,” in which case they would be emsers or emvers. Just think of the potential if we promoted the use of these terms. Eventually we could have a whole universe of specialized terms that let us speak faster and more concisely. With a few words we could explain hugely complex ideas to each other as we passed in the corridor.

After a decade or so, we could have modified the English language as it is spoken in the IT world to become a whole new tongue (Itenglish?). This would have huge benefits, as it would increase our job security and keep outsiders (marketing, accountants and similar hoi polloi) from interfering in our domain. The future can’t come fast enough.

Gibbs is a contributing editor at Network World (US). He is at [email protected].

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