Tag Archives: Language

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?

Language in flux

The other day I was at an event where the host asked her guests to ‘smile for a selfie’. The thing is, the host was not in the photo, she was only taking it. Then I saw someone on TV being ribbed about the large number of selfies he was posting, they even showed one for illustrative purposes. In that photo he was posing with both his hands in view, so unless some unseen parts of his body were very dexterous, I’m confident that he did not take the photo himself.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the evolution of language, and I think the word ‘selfie’ beautifully describes a photo taken of one’s self by one’s self – but surely both those factors need to be true for it to be a ‘selfie’? If they are not we have another word for photos like that… photos.

It seems like the definition of ‘selfie’ is morphing to mean any picture of human beings taken by a device that is able to post the images to the internet. So perhaps instead of ‘selfies’ we should be calling them ‘posties’. I know we already use that for the people who deliver our mail, but hey, there used to be a time when ‘stream’ just meant a small waterway.