Words vs Meaning

At the moment I’m working with a group of IT developers. Every morning we have a stand-up meeting where we go around and say what we did yesterday, and what we are doing today. It never ceases to amaze me how when the developers talk about what they are doing I can understand 99% of the words they use, but only about 50% of the meaning. It’s like they are using a whole other language, but a language made up of words from my language.

Sure, there are some words I don’t understand, something that sounds like nougat, stuff to do with pipelines, and a wiff, or waff, or woff (I’m still not sure what they are saying). All I need to know is that they have sprinkled their magic code-dust over the computer and it is now doing what I need it to do. But to get that answer I need to ask my own yes/no question.

Any change in job or career means a learning curve where you need to re-learn some parts of your own language. The context of the word can totally change its meaning, and part of that context can even be the people with whom you are talking.

No wonder language is constantly evolving. If these differences can arise in organisations and vocations, is it any wonder we can speak so differently across states and countries?

3 thoughts on “Words vs Meaning”

  1. I have been working as an IT Architect for almost 10 years now. When I tell people I work in IT, the first question is usually “are you a programer?” This is typically followed by web developer and PC support, at which point they give in, puzzled, wondering what else people do in IT. When I try to explain that I architect solutions, I then have to relate it to architecting a building, but with IT stuff.
    However, a few years ago, I told someone that I was a Solutions Architect and he started fuming. You’re not a real architect, you can’t call yourself that, I didn’t go to university for years to become a qualified architect to have stink’n IT people taking that title from me. “You can’t use Architect with a capital A, you’re not a real Architect!”
    Architect is the most descriptive title for what I and my colleagues do, so that word is ours too now.

    I was reading about the word ‘lit’ yesterday. It is used in a literary classic (The Cat in The Hat) in an odd way. Long ago, lit meant intoxicated, however the current use of the word is quite different.

    I love how words can be repurposed in different contexts and generations and how even their connotations can change over time (I still remember the days before nerds were cool).

    Then there is Lego. How could the whole world outside of Adelaide be saying it the wrong way??!!!?!

  2. Wow, I refer to information architecture all the time in my documents. So much easier than saying ‘the structure of how all your knowledge systems are built and their interaction with each other’. I’ve never had any push-back on it though. Maybe because I work mainly with IT nerds? And I don’t always capitalise my Architecture? 🙂

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