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Coining terminology for life on the web

Source: New York Times
May 4, 2012
WHEN a friend recently asked for advice about using social media, I excitedly embarked on a description of my daily routine — checking in on Foursquare to share my whereabouts with friends, posting tweets to Twitter, sharing screenshots from the latest “Mad Men” episode on Tumblr, and skimming through the stylized images on Instagram.

He shook his head. It wasn’t just that he wasn’t familiar with the microblogging sites I regularly use. “You’re speaking another language,” he said.

And in a way, I am. It’s the vernacular of the Web.

Some of the words and phrases many of us use to describe our behavior on the Internet did not exist just a few years ago. Others have taken on new uses. In a recent update, for example, the Oxford English Dictionary altered its lexicon, including the coinages “LOL”(laugh out loud) and “OMG” (oh my God).

Often, these changes reflect behaviors spurred by start-ups that deliberately coin clever monikers intended to shape the syntax that we use to describe actions on the Web. Coming up with a name that sticks for an online service may be as important to a new company as a sleek site design or a sophisticated set of algorithms.

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