The language curmudgeon . . .

"Wide-area LANs" and "writable CD-ROMs"

Conrad Weisert
© Information Disciplines, Inc., Chicago -- 16 February, 2009

NOTE: This document may be circulated or quoted from freely, as long as the copyright credit is included.

I've actually heard those absurd terms in presentations and read them in articles and recruiting ads. It's obvious, of course, that the speaker or author has momentarily forgotten what the abbreviation stands for. We might award the grand prize to the software vendor who posted big signs in a hotel serving the last National Computer Conference in 1987, announcing:

OPEN HOUSE

by invitation only

Slightly more subtle than those outright oxymorons are redundancies, such as:

In some cases the author may be unsure that the readers are acquainted with the abbreviation. It's better style then to put the explanation before the abbreviation:

Best practice is to explain the first use of a term and then just use the abbreviation later:

Worse than the above oxymorons and redundancies are phrases that are just wrong. After they pop up, they spread and it's hard to get rid of them. Many COBOL programmers, for example, used to refer to:

We even saw those in articles and textbooks.


Return to Business & culture articles
IDI Home Page

Last modified 30 March 2009