July 15, 2011

Finding use for useless words

I am currently working on an assignment at a client that involves cleaning up an architecture standards base. A series of postings on this topic are due some other time. In the context of this engagement, I found that typical "useless" or "vague" words suddenly become very useful. Let me elaborate.

First of all, we had to find a term for standard components, models, etc. that people use in doing their work. Half jokingly, we started calling them "things". Turns out that the term "standard thing" took off and was actually just vague enough to denote exactly what we wanted. In the past I've used terms such as "standard asset" but somehow that just sounds too formal.

A typical use of the term standard is that of a constraint; a rule that has to be enforced on the "thing" we're building (in the case this engagement: IT systems). This gave us the distinction between "standard thigns" and "standards about things".

Confusing? Perhaps, but it seems to work in practice. And while on the topic of terminlogy, there's another good one to consider. At some point we needed a generic term to denote "anything vaguely technical". One member of our team suggested the word "stuff" for this, and guess what: it stuck!
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