Techie Talk

by Paul Niquette
Adapted from 101 Words I Don't Use
Copyright 2008 by Paul Niquette. All rights reserved.

 
any common words and phrases have been appropriated from science and technology to perform expressive services in other realms. None more so than center of gravity, which has a large number of applications -- from the literal (predicting the stability of an automobile in a curve), to the practical (selecting the site for a new school in a residential neighborhood), and to the metaphorical (finding a compromise in a range of political opinions).

Techie terms -- some antiquated, some even obsolete -- make for nifty catch-phrases and metaphors...

amplification, benchmark, blue-print, carbon footprint, catalyst, closing the loop, cross-section, denatured, elasticity, embryonic, epicenter, fault line, feedback, flip-flop, gasket, gear ratio, greenhouse gases, high voltage, incubator, kilohertz, knee of the curve, law of averages, litmus test, volatility, magnification, megahertz, megawatt, naked eye, nominal values, ozone layer, ratchet, real-time, resonance, seismic shift, short circuit, solid state, spectrum, steady state, telescopic, tetraethyl leaded, third rail, torque, traction, trajectory, transient, transparency, triangulate, vacuum tube, volatility, x-ray, zilch
Not all techie-terms have been plucked-and-placed (dragged-and-dropped) into common usage.  Still, they and others are out there, ready and waiting.

f course, language adoptions travel a two-way street.  As lamented elsewhere, apart from a few innovative terms like byte, debugger, reboot, software, many common words and phrases essential for computers are merely re-purposed into cyber-lingo and right back out again into street-talk, often with their literal definitions long forgotten...

address space, alphanumeric, beta-test, binary search, bit string, buffer, cache, chip, click-through, client, code walk-through, compiler, crash recovery, cursor, daughterboard, debug, dot, download, drag-and-drop, finite automaton, fixed point, flip-flop, floating point, floppies, gigabyte, glitch, hacker, hard-drive, heap limits, help screen, icon, homepage, interface, kludge, least recent usage, log-on/off, mark-up language, master controller, mega-whatever, memory mapping, monitor, motherboard, multi-tasking, nanosecond, network protocol, nibble, object modules, on-line, open loop, operating system, overflow, overwrite, peer-to-peer, pixel, plug-and-play, point-and-click, priority interrupt, pull-down menu, random access, read-only memory, upload, sample data system, scroll-bar, server, slave device, source code, splat, spooling, stack pointer, state machine, swapping algorithm, symbolic assembler, toggle, touch-screen, user support, virus, wildcard, worm
...meanwhile, politicians and their speech writers might take delight in the lexicons of technology, reaching for rhetorical heights, say, in aviation's argot...
aileron, advection fog, airfoil, airspeed indicator, altitude, angle-of-attack, angle-of-climb, aspect ratio, autopilot, barrel roll, block time, boundary layer, carry-through, checklist, climb out, cloud ceiling, cockpit, compass heading, control surface, control tower, cowl flaps, crab angle, crosswind, cruise power, dead reckoning, de-icing boot, delta wing, dew point, direction finder, down draft, drag coefficient, elevon, empennage, engine nacelle, engine out procedure, firewall, flight plan, flaps down, flight deck, flying blind, fuel on board, fugoid oscillation, fuselage, gear down, glide path, g-loading, graveyard spiral, ground effect, groundless, ground speed, hangar flying, headwind, holding pattern, homing in, induced drag, instrument panel, lift-to-drag ratio, jet stream, landing gear, lapse rate, loftiest, lift coefficient, manifold pressure, mayday, nosedive, parasite drag, pilot-in-command, pitch authority, pitot tube, power curve, pressure ratio, prop wash, pull-out, pushing the envelope, pylon, radar blip, relative wind, roll out, rotor blade, rudder pedal, runway elevation, seat-of-the-pants, service ceiling, side-slip, skid correction, sky-writing, snap roll, soul-on-board, squall line, sound barrier, sponson, stabilizer, stall speed, storm cell, straight-and-level, tach-time, take-off, tail rotor, tailspin, tailwind, tarmac, temperature gradient, thrust-line, toe-brakes, transponder, turbulence, undercarriage, updraft, usable load, vertigo, virga, vortex generator, washout, waypoint, wheels up, windscreen, wind-shear, wind-sock, wind tunnel, winglet, wing tip vortex, yaw, zero-zero, zoom
...or higher still by adopting phraseology made available by space-speak...
A-OK, apogee, blast-off, boost phase, burn-out, count-down, dynamic pressure, docking collar, down-link, dynamic pressure, explosive bolts, eyeballs out, fail-safe, geostationary orbit, g-force, go for staging, gravity-assist, heat shield, hypergolic relationship, launch pad, lift-off, manipulator arm, mid-course maneuver, orbital insertion, payload bay, perigee, pressure lock, reentry parameters, rocket science, roll program, solar panel, space cadet, telemetry, trans-lunar injection, throttle-up, thruster, tracking network, splash-down, up-link, vector, weightlessness
...while nabbing notions from nuclear nomenclature...
alpha particles, atom smasher, beta particles, chain reaction, China syndrome, containment vessel, critical mass, cyclotron, fallout shelter, fast-breeder reactor, fission, fusion, gamma rays, Geiger counter, ground zero, half-life, kiloton, linear accelerator, megaton, meltdown, moderator rods, neutron bomb, overkill, radioactivity, thermonuclear
As I have speculated elsewhere, today's policy-makers, born late in the Atomic Age, probably presume that some small atoll in the Pacific was named after a two-piece bathing suit and [groaner alert] that if a unicycle has one wheel, then a unikini must be a topless beach garment.

ost people are quite comfortable using technical expressions in their figurative senses, whether acquired as precocious juveniles...

axle, centrifugal force, evaporation, friction, gyroscopic motion, leverage, melting point, path of least resistance
...as adolescents, beginning with car talk...
accelerator, brakes, camshaft, carburetor, clutch, compression, crankshaft, differential, drive shaft, gas tank, high-test, hubcap, ignition, internal combustion, crankcase, journal bearing, lube-job, muffler, oil pump, parking brake, ping, piston rings, push rods, rack-and-pinion, radiator cap, retread, rocker arms, shock absorber, spark plug, supercharger, tappet wrench, timing chain, universal joint
...as students in elementary science classes...
acid test, buoyancy, cell nucleus, chlorophyl, condensation, density, electrostatic charge, escape velocity, least common denominator,  magnetic poles, mutation, natural selection, optical wavelengths, opaque, osmosis, path of least resistance, protoplasm, reflection, surface tension, throughput, vaporize
...or as undergraduates...
absolute zero, attenuate, ballast, Brownian movement, chloroplasts, coalesce, discrete logic, deductive logic, determinism, entropy, gas diffusion, ionization, hypergolic, hypothetical, linear algebra, mathematical induction, mitochondria, null hypothesis, orthogonal polynomials, parameter, permeability, precession, protozoa, refraction, relative humidity, specific gravity, tectonic plates, translucent, triboelectric effect, universal constant, variable, volatility
nstitutions of governmental are famous for resisting changes in policy directions (inertia) if not retarding progress (viscosity).  Technical disciplines have provided vogue expressions for characterizing a campaign (traction, momentum, meltdown), complaining about the quality of mass media (least common denominator), disparaging slow-wittedness (narrow bandwidth), and decrying rage (going ballistic).

Which invites the question, what would ever get started or stopped -- or accomplished -- in society without the linguistic contributions of Techie Talk?
 

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