When (Broken) Software Inspires New Language

Software Testing has many joys. Most have to do with solving tricky puzzles, collaborating with brilliant minds, or contributing to the creation of elegant software…but sometimes there are simpler pleasures as well.

Today a colleague sent around a prototype of an application that takes any string and attempts to pluralize it. It handles a lot of tricky cases, e.g. correctly pluralizing “surgeon general” as “surgeons general”. On the other hand, it makes many mistakes, and I suspect will always do so. One example: it currently assumes that any input is singular. When run against one of the data sets it was designed for (a list of Types Freebase.com users have created) I noticed it turned “Most Disliked Things” into “Most Disliked Thingses”. At that point I couldn’t resist watching it turn “Hobbits” into “Hobbitses”…and then coining a new term:

Smeagolize: To alter a word or phrase, making it sound like something the character Smeagol from the Lord of the Rings would say, e.g. “Most Disliked Things” into “Most Disliked Thingses”

This reminded me of one of my favorite examples of a coder solving a problem in an amusing way. This was many years and companies ago. A harried coder was asked to display some (potentially long) URLs in a very small space on a home page. As he worked on it, he discovered that some URLs didn’t fit the space. What to do? A less intrepid coder might have asked for help with the design problem, but he tackled it himself…by writing code to remove all the vowels from any URL over 20 characters.  This led us to coin the term:

Disemvowel: To remove the vowels from a URL or other word, e.g. changing
http://www.associationforsoftwaretesting.org/ to
http://www.ssctnfrsftwrtstng.rg/

Needless to say, this particular code didn’t live to see the light of day…but its memory lives on in the term Disemvowel.

Has broken software inspired new words for you as well?

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One Response to “When (Broken) Software Inspires New Language”

  1. Tal.E Says:

    I love your writing! I’m definitely gonna use these terms first chance I get :)
    one example I can think of right now is:
    “featureosis” – a horrible disease that afflicts software developers and causes them to add more and more redundant features (wasting time and making the software difficult to use).

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