Re: Inventing new words?

Subject: Re: Inventing new words?
From: Bruce Nevin <bnevin -at- CISCO -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 8 May 1996 13:14:23 -0400

For "prepend," a restatement that I find appropriate is "append to the
beginning." "Prefix" works for me only for small things that qualify as,
well, prefixes.

I thought the summation by Chuck Melikian <chuckm -at- MDHOST -dot- CSE -dot- TEK -dot- COM> was
spot on. Picking up his comment that it is "a fair example of a language
growing and adapting," I would add that "prepend" is likely to come into
more and more common usage because of the current prestige of things
geekish--of having the appearance, at least, of understanding the world of

Another example of change in process is use of email as a count noun rather
than an attributive: "send me an email [message]". Likewise I have heard
"I'll have to use several new softwares for this job" where I would have to
say something like "software applications" or "software packages." Already
(in less than 15 years) my sense that "email" must be an attributive makes
me old fashioned, can "softwares" be far behind? In both cases, it appears
to be newcomers to the field who reinterpret existing usage. From what I
have read, this is a pattern in dialect adoption that appears to be as old
as language itself.

"Prepend" works because it is obviously on the analogy of "append." For a
really similar example we may have to get "proactive"--this time a
deliberately marketed management consultant buzzword, which works because
it is so obviously on the analogy of "reactive."

Maybe we need to watch out for knee-jerk proactions, so to speak--a too
facile adopting of jargon. It is true that for some audiences we may feel
we have to prove membership by using their jargon; but for most isn't it
best when we project a more conservative persona by our usage? Best for
representing our employers to the public, and best for getting our language
out of the way of users who want to do things with our products.

Bruce Nevin

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