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Screenshot via Sideways

Online Dictionary Uses Simple Analogies to Decode Tech Jargon

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Screenshot via Sideways

Terms like cache, encryption, and open source likely sound familiar to anyone who browses the web on a regular basis. But unless you’re immersed in the tech world, explaining exactly what these words mean could get tricky. A new digital dictionary from Google’s Jigsaw and The Washington Post aims to frame complicated tech jargon in ways that anyone can understand, Co.Design reports.

The makers of Sideways prioritized simplicity. Visitors can enter the term they want defined into the website or app, or they can scroll through the list of 70-odd tech concepts that are featured. Terms range from those we use in everyday conversation (app) to some we hear less often (buffer overflow attack). No matter the term, the definition assumes you’re hearing about it for the first time. For instance, here’s the top description for "cookie": "It’s like a barista with a good memory. So every morning when you come in for your decaf soy latte with an extra shot and cream, they nod wearily and say ‘The usual?’"

Merriam-Webster meanwhile defines the same word as: "a small file or part of a file stored on a World Wide Web user's computer, created and subsequently read by a website server, and containing personal information."

Sideways includes slang terms like "troll" ("It’s like road rage … people shout and get aggressive in ways that would never occur to them if you were talking face to face") and professional terminology like "agile software development" ("It’s like a band trying new material on tour … the band tries out new songs with audiences—testing what works and what doesn’t").

Most definitions were written by British design writer Nick Asbury and tech pioneer Vint Cerf. If users have an analogy they think works better, they can add it to the site. A crowdsourced up-voting and down-voting system ensures the most popular submissions pop up first.

Along with the website, Sideways launched a Chrome extension that defines tech jargon within posts and articles anywhere on the internet. Web users looking to boost their tech literacy can install it here.

[h/t Co. Design]

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Words
How New Words Become Mainstream
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If you used the words jeggings, muggle, or binge-watch in a sentence 30 years ago, you would have likely been met with stares of confusion. But today these words are common enough to hold spots in the Oxford English Dictionary. Such lingo is a sign that English, as well as any other modern language, is constantly evolving. But the path a word takes to enter the general lexicon isn’t always a straightforward one.

In the video below, TED-Ed lays out how some new words become part of our everyday speech while others fade into obscurity. Some words used by English speakers are borrowed from other languages, like mosquito (Spanish), avatar (Sanskrit), and prairie (French). Other “new” words are actually old ones that have developed different meanings over time. Nice, for example, used to only mean silly, foolish, or ignorant, and meat was used as blanket term to describe any solid food given to livestock.

The internet alone is responsible for a whole new section of our vocabulary, but even the words most exclusive to the web aren’t always original. For instance, the word meme was first used by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene.

To learn more about the true origins of the words we use on a regular basis, check out the full story from TED-Ed below.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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language
The Evolution of "Two" in the Indo-European Language Family
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The Indo-European language family includes most of the languages of Europe as well as many languages in Asia. There is a long research tradition that has shown, though careful historical comparison, that languages spanning a huge linguistic and geographical range, from French to Greek to Russian to Hindi to Persian, are all related to each other and sprung from a common source, Proto-Indo-European. One of the techniques for studying the relationship of the different languages to each other is to look at the similarities between individual words and work out the sound changes that led from one language to the next.

This diagram, submitted to Reddit by user IronChestplate1, shows the word for two in various Indo-European languages. (The “proto” versions, marked with an asterisk, are hypothesized forms, built by working backward from historical evidence.) The languages cluster around certain common features, but the words are all strikingly similar, especially when you consider the words for two in languages outside the Indo-European family: iki (Turkish), èjì (Yoruba), ni (Japanese), kaksi (Finnish), etc. There are many possible forms two could take, but in this particular group of languages it is extremely limited. What are the chances of that happening by accident? Once you see it laid out like this, it doesn’t take much to put *dwóh and *dwóh together.

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