Cafe Witness

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Problem With Hating Bacn

As you've probably heard, a new meme was coined at PodCamp Pittsburgh 2: "bacn", aka, the email you WANT but don't have time for (newsletters, Twitter follower alerts, etc.).

In alarmingly fast fashion, the word has spread from, literally, the mouths of 4 or 5 people sitting near the check-in desk at PCPGH2 to being quoted internationally. It's popped up on Russian and Japanese blogs. It has its own site and its own merchandise.

And, of course, it has detractors. The loudest thus far has been Web Worker Daily, which states, unequivocally:

Color me curmudgeonly, but I’d like to see this one stopped in its tracks right now.

Apart from the irony involved in a site that purports to be a site of the people (notice it's not called "Web Experts Daily" or "Web Employers Daily") telling those same people what words it is and isn't allowed to use, there are two larger issues at play here:

1. What's wrong with more language?

Love it or hate it, "bacn" is a way to differentiate important-but-untimely email from "real" email or spam. It's a descriptive word. It's a classification. It's useful.

Given the fact that so much miscommunication in this world comes from common misunderstandings -- and that folks in Arab nations have dozens of words for the parts of a camel -- I think it's safe to say that we could all benefit from more (and clearer) language.

Which brings us to the more politically charged issue:

2. Who's allowed to create language?

In the WWD blog post, Mike Gunderloy says:

Apparently this is the term the cool kids are using now for stuff that falls in between e-mail and spam...

Notice the snarky use of "cool kids." Implied in that offhanded comment is a deeper observation:

If Scoble, Rubel or MacLeod has coined that phrase, we'd all have accepted it, no questions asked. Naysayers and detractors would still wring their hands, but it would be too late: words from the voice of god(s) automatically enter the lexicon.

Words coined by a few Canadians and Pittsburghers during downtime at a free social media conference? Apparently, not so much.

So, what now, web users? Who will YOU allow to control your vocabularies?

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  • I'm down with the cool kids.

    By Blogger The M Show, at 7:53 PM  

  • Chunky Bacn! (Courtesy of my favorite Rails tutorial:

    By Anonymous Steve, at 8:35 PM  

  • Here here, i'll continue using bacn till web 3.0, which there might be something new about it.

    Is there a facebook group of this yet?

    By Anonymous Philip Crow, at 9:17 PM  

  • I'm all for inventing words...but can someone explain why "bacn"? Am I missing something? Isn't the concept more like parsley or a fruit garnish?

    By Anonymous brunette, at 2:38 AM  

  • Brunette: Yes, in theory. But this isn't a case of premeditated word invention; it's a punchline that caught on with a small group of people and then kept spiraling out...

    Tell me whoever invented "spam" was eliminating lousier-sounding options... ;)

    By Blogger Justin Kownacki, at 8:34 AM  

  • I think bacon is tasty, and when I resign myself to not eat pork, I find myself munching on crispy strips. I find no connection between breakfast treats and the latest LinkedIn notification in my inbox. There has to be a better analogy.

    besides... I thought dropping vowels was passé after all the flickr parodies of the past couple years.

    By Anonymous Mike, at 12:16 PM  

  • I'm down with the cool kids, too.

    Bacn is a wonderful neologism, and I wish I would have spawned it.

    In fact, I want to start a new company:

    Neo-Bacn Marketing Agency: giving people more semi-desired messages to ponder and archive!

    (I had a better slogan, must search my Twitter archives for it!)

    By Blogger steven edward streight, at 10:37 AM  

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