We Talk a Little Different

I’m not the only “technology Zen hippie geek” out there. In fact, until a few days ago, when my wife labeled me as such, I didn’t even realize I was one.

When she said it, my (mental) jaw dropped. “Of course”, I asserted internally, “you are right!”

But there are others of my kind out there. I am certainly not the primordial of this type, nor am I particularly “Zen”, “hippie-ish”, or “geeky”, by many standards. But she said: that “technology Zen hippie geek”

As if I were the one singled out, at least in the immediate neighborhood of our immediate friends and relations, as “that guy”, of some sort. Perhaps she is right.

… she said, “that technology Zen hippie geek”

We talk a little different. And when I come home from work certain days, and try to yammer about the web service I worked on to integrate with that beast called BizTalk, while also trying to debug some CSS to get my UI looking decent, my family looks at me, a bit perplexed, and a bit amused. But what is most interesting to me is that there are a few words which are just common English, which I would expect anyone to know, or to understand my particular meaning when I say them, or which we programmers and technologists use in different ways very naturally.

A few examples:

  • The word “cache”. It seems a very common word. It is a place where some stuff is stored. But the first time I met a non-technologist who did not even know its common English meaning, I was quite perplexed – after all, everybody on the planet uses a cache ever day in their browser! But instead they know about “cookies”. (And many of them still regrettably think that “clearing my cookies” gives them a fair shot at solving any problem.)
  • The word “default”. It comes up all the time in programming and system administration, as well as desktop support. It is also a common English word. But who would ever say, “I am having my default” when ordering breakfast – instead, they would say “the usual, please!”. But to a technologist, “default” is “what you have before you screw things up”. 😉

Okay – perhaps these are not very interesting examples, and are a bit wonky.

A few more light-hearted, passed along to me by a colleague who has both a great technology insight and a great sense of humor:

  • A programmer calls a “mistake” as an “error”. (Maybe software would be less buggy if we all just admitted they are really mistakes! :-))
  • A wireframe is a “stick figure of an application”. In fact, a wireframe is a Microsoft Visio drawing that you can obsess over for weeks and then tuck away in your documentation file, never to be used again by anyone. But it’s meant to serve exactly the same purpose as a stick figure does when drawing a person – it is meant to be an essential representation of a system or object which is too complex to be captured accurately by a lay person.

What do you think? Have you as a technologist ever said something perfectly clear, only to be misunderstood? Have you as a Friend of the Geeks ever chuckled to yourself over the odd word your loved one has uttered?