I’m Old, Part LII: Nomenclature

Naming things is one of the hardest things in software engineering. You have to strike a balance between a name that conveys your abstraction but isn’t completely esoteric. For example, Mac OS 6.04 introduced the OS call ‘Gestalt’ which was to be used to find out specific information about the system on which an application was running. Gestalt is a horribly esoteric word, but it does convey what it does.

While I was working at Atalasoft, I did some code to handle digital signatures. The abstraction required an object to hold a set of signatures. I thought I would call it something like ‘philographist’ (someone who collected signatures or autographs), and while that describes precisely what this object does, I was certain that very, very few of our customers would have any idea what that meant. I ended up calling it PdfDocumentSignatureInformation or some such thing.

As a result of this, we end up putting trite names on things that we encounter. I want to celebrate some of the ones that my co-workers have come up with.

Drawer Dogs – Nathan Graham coined this term referring to hot dogs served at a movie theater. They always had the rollers loaded up with hot dogs at the concessions stand, but you never got one of those. No. When you asked for a hot dog, they opened a drawer and pulled one out.

Death Tart – I’m not putting a name on this one (you know who you are). It was in reference to the emerging goth trend in the 90’s and some of the stereotypical women styles.

Turd Fangs – Eric Zocher came up with this. There was a game for the Macintosh that was based on a 2D polygon engine. One of the first challenges you had was to get past a small swarm of poisonous creatures on the ground. The name was perfectly accurate for what it was.

Road Margarita – Jake Lauzier named this. It’s the combination of salt and slush that gets plowed into the end of your driveway.

Hard Candy Shell – Rick Minerich used this term to describe the result of an ice storm on your car.

Porknography – Me – in referring to catalogs we received at Atalasoft for Bacon and ham.