The evolution of language


(This is the Online column written for The Southland Times)

The internet has had a huge impact on our day-to-day lives and now it’s starting to make an impression on our day-to-day language.

Not so many years ago, the average punter (myself included) would have been baffled by talk of modems, megabytes and meta tags. Now, I can surf the net and feel like I know what I’m doing.

Most of the time.

I can rattle off the net terms that make me sound knowledgeable without feeling like a knob. I know that bandwidth doesn’t relate to ring sizes, a host won’t be offering me a glass of wine or chip and dip and a blog isn’t something a child with a head cold plays with ( “I stacked my blogs up to make a tower, now I’m going to put on my sogs and shoes. Sniffle.” ).

Here’s the potato, still looking for the mouse.

They say our language is a living, constantly evolving thing and that is highlighted by the new words that make their way into our conversations, and into our dictionaries. The next edition of the Miriam-Webster dictionary will feature mouse potato and spyware, while Oxford Online recognises adware and hactivism.

The latest net word to join the ranks of real-life words is google, meaning to search for information using online search engine Google. Both dictionaries have accepted it as a transitive verb.

Google-users have been using the term for years and I suppose at some point it’s likely other brands and site names commonly used as verbs will also gain mainstream acceptance.

In the United States, eBay is often used in this way (“Do you eBay?” ), while Adobe’s ever-popular image editing software programme Photoshop is probably every bit as well-used as a verb as Google.

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