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New words to match techno-change

Ross O. Storey | Dec. 15, 2008
Have you googled yourself with a dongle to do some crowd-sourcing?

One of the many fascinations of my job is seeing how language transforms itself to cope with technology. For example, it was back in 2006 when the Macquarie dictionary (Australias leading word definer) provided a definition of google which, it said, was a transitive verb to search for on the internet. Hence, we now google the web for information, or we google ourselves to find out how the web sees us. You know, thats when you type in your own name in the search box and check what comes up.

The giant company Google was created in the mid 1990's, and its name derives from googol which is the number one, followed by one hundred zeros.  The word Google was also used with googleplex in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", a science fiction comedy series created by Douglas Adams that was originally a radio comedy broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1978.

Googles competitor Yahoo, hasnt quite made it to the dictionary as a verb, perhaps because its current advertising revenue is about one third of Googles. I wonder how many people realize that Yahoo comes from the book Gullivers Travels Written by Jonathan Swift in 1726 more than 280 years ago? In this memorable classic, a Yahoo is a hideous deformed creature; a basic form of human being that is subservient to the Houyhnhnms intelligent horse-like creatures - who expel Gulliver from their land because he is too smart and a threat to their dominance.

Then theres the dongle which is a device that attaches to a computer to control access to a particular application, or what about the transformation of the word text. Because mobile phones have become as vital as underwear, young people now text each other, or speak about how I texted you the other day. This, of course, can be interchanged with SMSed (Short Message Serviced) or even MMSed (Multi-media Message Serviced). And theres a particular favourite of mine crowd sourcing, which refers to using the collective wisdom of as many people as possible to draw on creativity, ideas and solutions. Crowd sourcing is a 21st century version of drawing on the collective consciousness, or in other modern speak, to develop a bottom up form of decision making as opposed to the traditional top-down approach. Technology is changing so rapidly that young people who use it, are inventing their own words to keep up.

Ross O. Storey, currently the Managing Editor of Fairfax Business Media Asia, is responsible for the editorial content and production of MIS Asia, CIO Asia, Computerworld Singapore and Computerworld Malaysia magazines.


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