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By Joel Klebanoff

So to Speak

Merriam-Webster, Incorporated recently announced a few of the almost 100 words and phrases that will be added to the 2006 version of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, which will be available in the fall of 2006. Not surprisingly, some of those new terms are technology-related, including google, ringtone, and mouse potato.

According to Merriam-Webster, google, which the dictionary's editors spell with lowercase when using it as a generic word rather than a trademarked name, is a verb that means to look up something using the Google search engine. That seems pretty obvious. Let's move on.

The inclusion of ringtone is going to force me to change some of my writing. I've always spelled it as two words because, until now, ringtone was not valid English. I don't know if there is a spellchecker update for Word, but my version still flags it as invalid. Then again, it doesn't like lowercased google either. Come to think of it, considering that, according to the media, Microsoft sees Google as the enemy, I'm surprised that Word allows me to type google at all, upper- or lowercase. I would have expected that every time I typed "Google," Word's autocorrect feature would routinely replace it with "MSN Search." Maybe it's just an oversight on Microsoft's part.

I have no dispute with spelling ringtone as one word rather than two; however, I suggest that we rethink the word altogether because most people who download new ringtones for their phones get something that doesn't even vaguely resemble a ringing sound. Instead of ringtones, I think we should call them excessively-annoying-ditty-tones. But that's just my opinion.

I guess I'm without it (i.e., not with it) because I had never heard the term mouse potato before, but Merriam-Webster is adding it to its dictionary nonetheless. It means someone who spends a great deal of time at a computer. Does that sound like anyone you know? If it sounds like everyone you know, I recommend that you get a wider circle of friends.

Being someone who writes about technology, I was wondering how I should refer to a person who spends an inordinate amount of time at a computer but who, probably using a laptop or a wireless keyboard, does so from a couch. Is that a "couch mouse potato" or a "mouse couch potato?"

It's very commendable that Merriam-Webster is diligently keeping up with the times. However, I don't think it's gone far enough. The following are a few more terms I think it should consider for inclusion in future editions. A couple of them have already been coined in the occasional article, but I think we need to formalize their use and disseminate them more widely.

Cybercide: The act of beating into oblivion a computer or another electronic gizmo, usually as a result of frustration over an incomprehensible user interface, excessive spam, or repeated malfunctions.

Cellaholic: A very popular person who cannot bear to be without his or her cell phone and is incapable of turning it off or not answering it when it rings. Cellaholics typically live short lives as their family and friends, who are regularly ignored while the cellaholics answer their persistently ringing phones, generally kill the cellaholics as a result of excessive aggravation and umbrage. It has not been confirmed, but rumor has it that juries in many states consider this to be a sufficient defense against murder charges.

Cellicide: Unlike the term "cybercide," "cellicide" is not the annihilation of a cell phone. Instead, it's a method of suicide that is used often, but not exclusively, by cellaholics who become extremely despondent for one reason or another, but, despite their desire to do so, they are incapable of killing themselves. In a fit of depression, cellicide victims call all of their friends and family, leaving messages regarding their mental state. Cellicide victims then go to a blockbuster movie, leaving their cell phones on at full volume, knowing full well that the audience will, en masse, beat the cellicide victim to a pulp after the first few sympathetic calls come in. As is the case with cellaholic murders, it is expected that juries of their peers are likely to be lenient with audiences in these circumstances, while posthumously chastising the cellicide victim.

Cellus interruptus: A cell phone call that is interrupted before the completion of the conversation because one of the people on the call is speaking loudly in a restaurant or café, causing an incensed fellow patron to grab the cell phone, throw it on the ground, and stomp on it repeatedly until it is nothing more than dust.

Instant madness: Insanity caused by incessantly being bothered by instant messaging interruptions and the resulting relentless rapid-fire, text-based interactions with unseen, unheard people. (See BYTE-ing Satire, page 81.)

Abbreviotic: An adjective describing an abbreviation—such as "ur" for "you are" or "l8" for "late"—that is so short as to be idiotic, but it is nevertheless necessary because a small, almost unusable keyboard makes it excruciating to type anything longer.

Podaholic: Someone who cannot function in the world unless an iPod is continuously blasting music directly at his or her eardrums at a volume that is sufficiently loud to be heard three streets away, despite the use of only earphones. The term "podaholic" is used during only the first year or so of the person's addiction. After that, another word, one that doesn't require a dictionary revision, suffices: deaf.

Teleternity: The indeterminate, exceptionally long time that you are kept on hold after calling the alleged customer service department.

IVR menu threshold: The number of levels of menu items that an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) phone system has to have in order to persuade callers to hang up in frustration when they call the alleged customer service department, thereby eliminating the need to hire any customer service representatives. This number is one less than the number of menu levels in a typical IVR system.

Rewindow: The process of restarting Windows so the latest security patch or software upgrade can take affect. The addition of this word, which will be used a lot, should significantly boost productivity as we will no longer have to tell people, "I can't help you for the next several minutes because Windows just told me I have to reboot if I want my damned computer to work reliably." Instead, we will be able to say just "I'm rewindowing" to gain someone's sympathy. Then again, the time savings may be illusory because what else have we got to do while Windows is rebooting? We might as well be verbose.

Safe surfing: Web surfing using hardware and software that is designed to eliminate any possibility of your computer being infected by spyware, adware, viruses, Trojan horses, or other malicious software. The only known foolproof method of safe surfing is to trick a friend into letting you use his or her computer to do your Web surfing. It then becomes somebody else's problem and therefore, according to Douglas Adams, invisible.

Absolute zero: Obviously, this isn't a new term. Instead, I'm suggesting an additional usage. As well as the current definition, which is the total absence of heat energy, the second meaning for absolute zero should be "the amount of time before the gizmo or software you just bought becomes obsolete."

Sote: Some would argue that, technically, this is not a new term at all as it is merely an acronym for a well-worn phrase and is already in some slang dictionaries. However, I would argue that we need to formalize the use of the word "sote" because, with the current prevalence of telemarketers, spammers, scammers, malevolent hackers, identity thieves, and the like, in the interest of efficiency, we need a shorter way to refer to the Scum Of The Earth.

Techtopian: A few other authors have already used this made-up word. My definition is someone who knows that, despite all of the truly wonderful things that technology provides, it also does some harm, such as reducing privacy, increasing rudeness, and driving most of us crazy at one time or another, but who believes that we could eliminate all of the problems and create a perfect world if only we had more technology.

This article originally appeared as part of a weekly series of "Tech Tirades" in MC TNT from MC Press Online. The first year's worth of Tech Tirades does not appear here. Instead, you can find them in BYTE-ing Satire.

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