Posts tagged “jargon”

Art theory jargon (could be designer-y jargon?)

A recent comment by Candy Minx introduces me to another word I don’t know: flaneur. Wikipedia sez it’s “a detached pedestrian observer of a metropolis, a ‘gentleman stroller of city streets’.” Reminds me a lot of reading blogs, with the ironic distance we keep; tracking memes, gossip, interesting stories, across a densely linked architecture of information, a metropolis of a new sort, perhaps.

The history of the term, perhaps, and I’m way out my depth here (hoping that by attempting to explain it naively I might somehow learn a little bit), connects to a time when pop culture was gaining relevance in contrast to “art” – something that was kept hidden away in galleries or museums or opera houses. The culture of the street being recognized as its own thing, and the emergence of a connoisseur for that culture. I’m sure you can draw a wobbly line from the flaneur to the trendspotter, although the motivations seem vastly different.

Even more designer-y jargon


Japanese aesthetic based on the acceptance of transience, described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”

Andrew Juniper claims, “if an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi.” Richard R. Powell summarizes by saying “It (wabi-sabi) nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”

(edited from Wikipedia link above)
Little light on examples, one can imagine things we find in nature, or maybe antique furniture or maybe the undesigned and Beta-y software/web of Google and MySpace?

Grasping the Slender Thread of Emergence

I’ve noticed recently that many of my peers speak casually of emergence, or describe something as being emergent. I can usually process their comments by context, even if I can’t use the word myself. At one point, I explored the word, but it didn’t stick more than loosely (supporting that context I’d been skating by with), so I decided today after the Nth encounter to seek some clarity. It’s not an easy term to sort out; even Wikipedia was not a lot of help (at one point the entry acknowledges the difficult in providing a definition).

But let me try and offer some sort of definition myself. This will help me “own” the word and may be of use to the three other people out there that don’t have emergence in their vocab!

Something is emergent when it is the seemingly unexpected and unpredictable outcome of a large number of smaller and simpler things (actions, items). If you put one brick on top of another, those small steps lead eventually to a tower. This is not emergence, because those small actions (one brick atop another) are intended to and obviously linked to the final result. But if everyone who is reading this right now takes their arms and goes like this (imagine a gesture) and a humming sound fills the earth, that is emergence.

The result of all that gesturing is unexpected. The collective gestures are a complex system with unintended consequences and side-effects (that’s the jargon money shot).

Animal behaviors are oft-cited examples. Each bird in a flock isn’t creating a flock, they are just doing their individual activity and it leads, somehow, to a flock. The Internet is another example where we can see weird things happen from a million small behaviors (putting up a site, establishing a node on a network).

Hey, if you’ve got more or can correct any of this, please go for it. That’s just my take on it!

Would you like a bed of Gilory garlic pomme frites with that?

The Seattle Times defines some of the fancy-shmancy words that we’re encountering more frequently in restaurants, including:

Beluga lentils
Day-boat scallops/Diver’s scallops
Hanger steak
Kurobuta pork
Mache (aka lamb’s lettuce, field salad, corn salad)
Marcona almonds
Paddlefish caviar
Panna cotta
Squid ink
Wagyu beef

The article is well-intentioned, but futile, isn’t it? I look at that list and haven’t encountered too many of ’em, but can think of other terms that eventually prompt each person around the table to glance up and mutter “What the hell is Ponzu sauce?”

Menus are my favorite thing to good-naturedly gripe about (note that most of my other gripes are not good-natured). It’s increasingly difficult to make the leap from the menu text to its basic concept, then to a visualization the visual, and then the taste – in order to decide if this is something one would want to eat.

I always cite the (since redesigned) Denny’s menu as a great example – it showed an overhead view of a plate with the actual item on it. Denny’s obviously doesn’t want to add the descriptors, it’s outside their brand…while other restaurants revel in the preparation verbs such as hand-picked, slow-churned, drizzled (and the occasional confusing-as-hell newfangled term, causing us all to look up and mutter “What the hell is ‘flash-embrizzled?’ “).

Next, stir in the geographical adjectives. Tuscan morels, Curincherria oysters, St. Endouille-upton-Styme pickles.

I am occasionally fortunate to go to some restaurant where even if I can strip away the adjectives (okay, that would be chicken breast with mashed potatoes and veggies) what ends up arriving is something that looks nothing like this:
Instead it’s some …creation…something amazing and invented as well as delicious. That’s a rare occurrence, of course.

Two Point Oh Meme

Everything is 2.0 nowadays. There’s endless bandwagoneering (and of course punditry and debate) over the leading member of the 2.0 game – at least on the web – Web 2.0. We could talk about it what means, but that’s not the point.

Core77 is running a series of presentations called Design 2.0. Today there’s some references to Advertising 2.0. Indeed, it was a year ago or more than someone referred to Portigal 2.0 when I outlined my early plans for evolving my consulting business. I have to say I was charmed by the term, but, well, yeah. I guess it’s better than ePortigal or iPortigal.

Update: Library 2.0?


swearingfestival is some event in SF to look at and experience swearing, of course. But lately I’ve been thinking about the silly words that we create to let us swear with out swearing.

Gosh instead of God
Gee whiz instead of Jesus Christ
Durn/dang instead of damn
Shucks or shoot instead of shit

And now we’ve got the network TV versions. My fave is jagoff (jagov?) for jackoff, appearing on NYPD, Law and Order (I presume), Third Watch, and the like. Anyplace you’ve got cops talking tough about the scum on the street.

It’s just so silly; you can say jagoff, but you can’t say jackoff?

I’m sure there are others I can’t think of right now.

Update: frigging, freaking, fricking all for fucking

Marketing speak

I was recently involved with a corporate retreat for marketers and was amused by the jargon I heard in the warmup session, including:

  • boredom busting
  • a light and airier eat
  • laddering up
  • slice and dice the consumer
  • cut up the consumer
  • the consumer
  • need states
  • more simplistic taste profiles

Once we had a chance to interact in a less formal setting I found them to be very personable, great storytellers, curious about people and the world, open-minded, funny, and everything great you’d want in someone that is honestly trying to satisfy needs. But why, then, does this horrifying lingo emerge so prominently when they are forced to strut for each other?

Supervisors to pay a $1 fine for using bureaucratic lingo

This type of rule may be largely symbolic, but the issue at question does deal with the meaning and usage of symbols, so perhaps it’s appropriate. It’s interesting to see a stand taken for effective communication and creating a smoother more usable “interface” to an organization. Organizations – the more bureaucratic, the better – become very focused on their insides, and not their outsides, thinking about their own processes and nomenclature and expecting their customers to adapt to their systems. It’s unfriendly, takes more effort, frustrating, distancing, and ultimately requires more work on their part to actually clarify or correct mistakes.

Contra Costa County supervisors who use certain dirty words during weekly meetings will have to cough up $1 fines. Under a new policy unanimously adopted Tuesday, bureaucratic acronyms like EIR, LAFCO, ABAG and RFP will be verboten in the board chambers in Martinez, not just from the supervisors’ podium but also in all written materials for board meetings.

‘We throw them around all the time,” said Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond, who proposed making Contra Costa the first county in California to adopt the anti-acronym stand. Politicians and bureaucrats there now must use phrases instead — environmental impact report, the Local Agency Formation Commission, the Association of Bay Area Governments and Request for Proposals.

He asserted that the public, whether sitting in the chambers or watching on television, can be confused when government officials engage in alphabet-soup discussions of programs.


Just last week I received a letter from the Canadian passport office. It was a piece of paper with 2 dozen check boxes available, each indicating a different type of problem. The problem with my form was checked, a couple of words appended, and a pointer to a code (“see PPT 0S1” – although was that 0 or O was unclear) – but no indication of what that code was, how to find the information in that code, and ultimately what to do with the information and card they sent me. No return envelope or instructions about where to mail it. I filled out the attached card and went to the web and found the mailing address and put it in the mail. When it arrives, will they be able to link this supplement with the information they have on file? I never found PPT 0S1. Really crappy experience for something as crucial as a passport. And this is, of course, typical. Especially for governmental agencies.

So, kudos to Contra Costa County for a SITRD! (step in the right direction)


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