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Having fun, writing about the stuff I like

Of Jargon and Avatars

Oscar Foulkes July 24, 2009 Uncategorized No comments

It’s occurred to me that industry jargon could be an interesting study, more from the perspective of its origins than the degree of impenetrability to outsiders, although that is telling in itself. We’ve been forced to become acquainted with some non user-friendly examples from the financial world, like SIV, CDS and ARM. Options traders talk about condors, butterflies, calendars and verticals (not to mention delta, vega and theta!).

Horse racing has kept alive the unit of measurement, furlong (201.168 metres). And, horses’ height is measured in hands (4 inches).

‘Tech’ (jargon in itself) has spawned an entirely new field of jargon, but much of it seems to be borrowed from more interesting sources. Bluetooth is an anglicised version of the name of a tenth-century Danish king who united dissonant tribes into a single kingdom. The apparently alive characters in games like Second Life are called avatars, which makes sense, given the meaning of the word in denoting an embodiment of a quality or concept.

Avatars have made the leap from games to commerce; it is now possible to have one of these ‘moving’, ‘talking’ characters helping visitors through one’s website. The banner below is for one such service:

Perhaps the teenaged boy in me is still alive and well. I couldn’t resist getting the character to say a variety of ridiculous things, by typing the phrase into the space provided.

While the world has become very much less tolerant of SIVs (structured investment vehicles), we may need to get used to having conversations with avatars. The fast-forward world of DVDs and the internet has spawned millions of people that simply don’t have the attention span to read a column of type, however much it is leaded (that’s jargon for line spacing, for anyone unfamiliar with the old days of letterpress!).

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