Cookies and Java

Wrinkly Bits

A Blog by Gail Cushman

Tom and I spent a couple months in Mexico in 1993 because we both needed to learn Spanish and the evening classes at CSI in Twin Falls weren’t quite doing their job. I taught ESL and Tom, as a judge, had a few people standing before him who spoke no English. We both did all the lessons and tried our best to learn Spanish, by having primitive conversations, then congratulating each other on how well we spoke but we did not sound remotely like natives. Neither my students nor Tom’s clients could understand us, so we thought, “Why not go to Mexico to learn to speak Spanish?” It was summer and I was out of school and Tom had vacation coming, so we jumped in our Jeep and traveled to Morelia (near Mexico City) to immerse ourselves in the language and culture. We lived with a lovely family and it seemed like a good way to pass some time, and, who knows? Maybe our trip could be tax deductible!

We worked our tails off and at the end of the summer, we could finally speak, read, write, and listen in another language. Bueno! We both felt proud as a newborn pollito. I could almost think in Spanish and even had a dream in Spanish one night, which I thought was the crème de la crème of my bilingual education. Of course, now, since I haven’t practiced in years, I know only the important words: cerveza and bano (beer and bathroom), both of which I need in Mexico, or for that matter, the U. S. A.

Fast forward to our newest language challenge…technology. The technology people are really, really smart. They can do all kinds of things that I never dreamed of and I still don’t understand and probably never will. They talk geek and leave me far behind, but what they can’t seem to be able to do is create their own words, new words. They are thieves and steal some of our best words from our normal language. Words like “zip,” a great word, short, has only one vowel, and has a “Z.” It’s one of those perfect words, and already has several meanings, like a fast getaway, or zip your lip (be quiet) or one of my favorites, are you afraid of heights, your zipper is? A cookie, everybody knows what a cookie is, a Girl Scout goodie, but every site I visit these days warns “caution, cookies.” Really? What’s wrong with cookies? And java, I love a good cup of java, but what is this java thing? Couldn’t you leave my cup of joe alone? A chip? C’mon, it’s already a wonderful offshoot of the potato, so, find your own word.

The techno folks also use a lot of acronyms, like LAN, and JPEG, and GIF making me think they are too lazy to say the entire phrase or to come up with their own words. I always thought that “ISP” was the Idaho State Police and now it is something else. They’ve also stolen “POP,” which was always a nice name for my dad, and “RAM,” a male sheep, another great word, short and to the point.

I doubt anyone will listen, but learning to speak, read, write, or listen in techno terms, is making me crazy. I can’t think or dream in techno, and I am a digital immigrant and proud of it. I’ll never be techno literate and will leave that status to people much younger and smarter than I. All I ask is that you stop stealing my best words to name your techno stuff. Find your own!

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