5.31.2011

When language obscures thought.


I hate language that's too finnicky and overly precise.  I think a story told should be more exciting than accurate.  I think we wrap too much caveat and limits of liability into our descriptions and narratives.  But, by the same token I resent and despise the seemingly relentless desire of mass culture to abbreviate.  A particularly foul Brittish language tic is the abbreviation of University to "uni."  Like fingernails on a chalk board.  But the worst abbreviation I've come across in my field is "togs."  I guess it started as a "hash tag" on Twitter but it should be stamped out at every opportunity.  "Photogs" is no better but slightly more sensible.

Please,  when commenting on my blog, try to use actual words that have actual meaning.  No more "uni" and please, please, no more "togs."  It's not cute or clever.  It's just wrong.  University.  Photographer.

For the Biblically inclined I would reference the Tower of Babel.  Wouldn't it be nice if we could continue to understand each other while speaking exactly the same language?

33 comments:

Rob said...

Uni and Togs are both far older then twitter or the the internet as we commonly know it today. Where I am from "togs" are swim-wear/speedos as well :-)

I always liked "Snapper" over tog but that one is not common in the US language [I hesitate to call it English as that be a different discussion :-)].

Mark Kalan said...

and no more"emoticons"! Please!

Rob said...

Sorry (cannot edit) - Mean to say... I bet you hate "brolly" as well hey :-)

Will said...

At the very least, you have vented a little and hope it helps. Not sure these abbreviations bother me too much but I really do see where you are coming from, and am far too guilty on occassion!

We are a funny breed are we not?

It made me smile reading this though - that's nice

Don said...

Oh man, Kirk. Sooooo agreed.

Photographer works fine. Photographer is what I do. I am not - NOT - a "tog" nor do I wish to be. Will never refer to that term, or 'UNI' or other newmediaspeak.

I have a few other pet peeves:

Brolly. I live in America. It is an Umbrella.
(Live somewhere else - great.)
TFP. I refer to it as "testing".

Well - those aren't as bad as 'tog' but still...

Jean-Yves said...

Togs == clothing. The common term for photographer is 'terrorist'.

Jan Klier said...

Don't blame the Brits for the Uni, I graduated one on the Southern side of the channel ;-)

Does Ben text? I have an ongoing argument w/ my older son that it's ok to use shorthand, but at least to spell correctly whenever possible.

That said, if we're bringing up cultures and languages, one of the worst things in web and UI design is to start in English. It's one of the most compact languages in terms of character count. You start that dialog box in English and then do localization you're in a world of hurt. I think on average German is 20-30% more character heavy. And that is w/o short hands.

Ultimately I think it has all to do w/ a sense of belonging. Kids use txt shorthand because it identifies them with their generation. And when photography became a hobby rather than a profession for the mainstream, being a tog was mostly a badge and sense of being part of something. Hence you see the word tog on many blogs, but rarely used at a place like SB3 or during a portfolio review.

kirk tuck said...

I slap people when they say "Brolly." Metaphorically, at least.

Bold Photography said...

Shortcut language is what drives me nuts. Ditto with misplaced or misused apostrophe characters. It's harder and harder to read what people write, and sloppy texting is making it into formal communication.

I will NOT do business with companies that use texting shortcuts in their advertisements. I find it insulting that someone cannot take the time to write things out properly (or learn when an apostrophe is a contraction, and when it's a possessive...) - particularly when they want me to buy something from them. It's bad enough in the forums to see it come up every once in a while - but at least there, it's possible to gently remind someone that others don't speak English very well, much less Shortcut...

Frank Grygier said...

What the DOF?

kirk tuck said...

Bokeh, anyone?

Paul Feng said...

How about jargon that was former used by a much more "elite" group (such as... pro photographers), but is now used by a much broader group, such as... photographers after the dslr amateur explosion (of which I am guiltily a member).

I'm thinking specifically of "glass". I've always felt a bit awkward using that. Maybe I wouldn't if I were an old pro. Now, "fast glass," maybe that's ok.

Dave Jenkins said...

I never souped my negs, either.

Wolfgang Lonien said...

I'm German, and I hate the term "to shoot". Or: "a shooting". That's not what I do - I don't "shoot" people.

Find it great on occasion, like in a movie.
"Can I ask you a question?" - "Shoot!"

It's another generation I guess. There was that bunch of photographers, all less than half my age, whom I asked what they're doing in that abandoned industrial area, a few of them in Superman costumes on bicycles (can you imagine?). Their answer: "That's a shooting for a bike manufacturer". OMG...

Sometimes I ask people if I may take their photograph. I chuckle at the thought of asking: "May I shoot you?"

Bold Photography said...

Brilliant capture!

Ian said...

Words, best used for communication when spoken so to include all the nuance available. Written words pretend precision, yet should be reserved for only the most skilled author.
Should you need to write words, restrict yourself to poetry or song, where interpretation is required.
Hmmm... Sung comments on blog posts? Now that could be offensive!

adam said...

Oh shoot! Now that reminds me of a story. A few years ago I was down in old Tombstone, AZ doing some photographing. I spotted these three guys sittin' on a bench outside one of the local establishments. Turns out that they were part of the crew that does the OK Corral shoot-out re-enactment. Well, I was packin' my Nikon 'shooter' and a tripod, and I went right over to them and asked, "hey, guys, I hate to put it this way, but do you mind if I shoot you?" They loved it. The photograph is on my web site posting for Nov 04, 2010.

Wolfgang Lonien said...

LOL (another one of these abbreviations; I know, but...)!

"Would you mind if I shoot you?" - just brilliant! Have to remember that for next time...

But what I wanted to ask some Americans since a while: is it considered offensive if I use the (British) English pronunciation, like: "colour", or "favourite"? In fori (forums?) and so on? All those spell-checkers complain, on about each website I know. But sometimes it's hard to un-learn stuff, you know...

Jeffrey Friedl said...

I'd venture that abbreviations that you find no discomfort in did bother your linguistic ancestors... "info", "sync", "Mr.", "U.S.","FYI", etc. The ones that bother you at the moment bother you because they bother you, not because they're "wrong" (except in comments on your blog, because it's your blog so your rules :-)

To add to someone's tangential comment about "glass" vs. "lens", I've felt that "lens" is what's used to take photos, while "glass" is the same object when the target of desire and lust. Hence, "You need a fast lens for this situation" and "I love fast glass". This fringe use of "glass" is like a spice... a bit on occasion can be nice, but a little goes a long way.

You mention bokeh in a comment, though I can't get a reading on your stance. There's really no other word that means the same thing (its use in English is even different from the Japanese it came from), so if you don't care for it you'll have to coin something new...

calvininjax said...

Is "British" too precise for you, Kirk?

efix said...

As a working linguist, all I can say to this is that language changes, and semiotic conventions change. If the mass agrees to prefer "uni" over "university", and "tog" over "photographer", chances are those will be established as standard.

Of course this all goes relatively faster today thanks to the internet, but then again the rather conservative and slow-changing medium of written language acts as a counterforce.

I wouldn't worry too much about stuff like that, really ...

John Bour said...

click or capture..

'nice click bro!'
'great capture'

ieeew..!

John Bour said...

oh..and when someone start talking about 'a nice piece of glass' I always misunderstand and start looking around.. ;-)

chris said...

My personal favourite is the inability of so many people to use the word "quote" correctly: as in, "I heard (or saw) a great quote the other day."

NO YOU DIDN'T!!

It would be "I heard (or saw) a great quotation the other day."

A quotation is a thing. A quote is a verb. You cannot hear or see a verb. You can hear or see a thing.

You can quote someone. But you cannot write down a quote.

This drives me nuts this does.

Thank you. I feel much better now.

And I agree - out of place shorthand can be annoying.

Steve Gray said...

I have to admit that the "tog" thing is like nails on a chalkboard for me. I think I picked it up from Don G...and sometimes I'll throw it out there just to get him riled up. But I do hate the term.

Poagao said...

"Pro", "Tog", "Photog", "Cam" and their ilk all speak of someone straining to create the impression that they are superior as they are apparently at ease with what they deem the "technical jargon". The actual result, however, is quite the opposite.

Steve said...

It's nice to know I'm not alone (says the long-time technical writer). Even if there's not realistic chance of halting the use of irritating neologisms and the like.

Meanwhile, my son, who's in his 20s, continues to grind his teeth when he comes across examples of advertising (mis)spelling. Not what you'd expect from a one-time metal band guitarist. I guess you can't tell by appearance.

Steve said...

Sigh. A post-posting edit feature would be nice. ("...there's not any realistic...")

kirk tuck said...

I hate the lack of a post posting edit feature. I think too fast and type to sloppily. It's a bad combination.

Anonymous said...

People who use jargon, abbreviations and acronyms do it to create barriers to entering their industry, their clique or their cronies. In every case it is not in the service of language or communication but in the disservice of civility and inclusion. Assholes.

David A. said...

Amusing post. Especially since I've been thinking for a while about kindly asking you to stop... using... "thru." 8^)

Ain't it funny how things bug us?

kirk tuck said...

Dear David, I am through using "thru" because of you. Now can we work on the word(?) "ain't?

Mail Order Mystic said...

The problem with language is that if enough people misuse it, the misuse becomes standard. Not photography related, but it really bothers me that the word "gender" has come to be interchangeable with sex, as in "What is your gender?" Prior to around 1970, gender was a term strictly applied to grammatical categories, and never to a person. I don't know why, but I still cringe everytime I see "gender" on a form that wants to know if you are male or female.