Jan/Feb Word Fugitives discussion

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Herewith some Word Fugitives responses I wish I'd had space for in the January/February issue of the magazine. What they were in response to was this:

Michael McWatters, of New York City, writes, "I use a computer for the better part of my waking life, and I've noticed that certain repetitive keyboard tasks are making their way into my non-computer life. For example, I recently knocked a jar off the counter, and a little voice inside yelped, 'Command-Z!' (the keyboard shortcut for Undo). Ditto for the time I accidentally ripped a page in a book. A friend mentioned that she recently lost her keys and thought, 'Command-F' (Find). There should be a term for this confusion, as it's only going to become more common."

 

Posted by mark: but have you tried to unlock your front door with the carkey clicker?

Posted by Jill: The one I want to use is the "insert" function--as in, "insert about three more hours into the day" without impacting normal needs like sleep, food etc. 

Alyssa Smith, of Dulles, VA: With those Command Fs and Command Zs, Michael McWatters is, of course, referring to his "interior macrologue."

Jeff Reed, of Wilmington, DE: Because the user needs to resort to the "F" or "Function" keys on the keyboard, it might be that "Functional Iteracy" would do. Or because it's written form is a new notational language, it might be "Keyculus" (after the notation developed by Newton now known as calculus). But, because you need to be wired to both understand and use the new notation, perhaps it's just "geekspeak."

John Marum, of Oakland, CA: Attempting computer commands in real life situations is called making imachinations.

Dylan Armstrong, of Westhersfield, CT: In referring to Michael McWatters' linguistic need, it seems that the word "compucalque" fits well. The key stroke is a direct translation of the action he would like to perform (i.e. Undo, Find, etc). Qualifying it with the "compu-" prefix speaks to the fact that the word is not from another spoken language but from the languange that we use to communicate with our computer.

Editor's note: the New Oxford American Dictionary defines "calque" as "another term for loan translation," and "loan translation" as "an expression adopted by one language from another in a more or less literally translated form."]

William M. Walsh, of Laguna Woods, CA: In response to Michael McWatters' search for a term to describe the intursion of his "virtual" world key strokes into real world actions:  ALTERKEYGO

Steve Chandler, of Galloway, NJ: Michael McWatters, and his friends, looking for real-life equivalents to the keyboard shortcuts are suffering from keystroke.


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Visit Barbara Wallraff’s blog, at barbarawallraff .theatlantic.com, to see more commentary on language and to submit Word Fugitive queries and words that meet David K. Prince’s need. Readers whose queries are published and those who take top honors will receive an autographed copy of Wallraff’s most recent book, Word Fugitives. More

Barbara WallraffBarbara Wallraff, a contributing editor and columnist for The Atlantic, has worked for the magazine for 25 years. She is also a weekly syndicated newspaper columnist for King Features and the author of Word Fugitives (2006), Your Own Words (2004), and the national best-seller Word Court (2000). Her writing about language has appeared in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Wilson Quarterly, The American Scholar, and The New York Times Magazine.

Wallraff has been an invited speaker at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the National Writers Workshop, the Nieman Foundation, Columbia Journalism School, the British Institute Library of Florence, and national or international conventions of the American Copy Editors Society, the Council of Science Editors, the International Education of Students organization, and the Journalism Education Association. She has been interviewed about language on the Nightly News With Tom Brokaw and dozens of radio programs including Fresh Air, The Diane Rehm Show, and All Things Considered. National Public Radio's Morning Edition once commissioned her to copy edit the U.S. Constitution. She is a member of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel. The Genus V edition of the game Trivial Pursuit contains a question about Wallraff and her Word Court column.

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