I am interested in the etymology of words. When I saw a YouTube video with the title, The Etymology of Programming taken from the 2018 JSConf EU I naturally tapped play. I had no idea how much I would learn, not only about the etymology of certain jargon pertaining to programming, and computers in general, but also about how much is left to be done to make the tech community more aware of the damage they can do with words.
Brittany Storoz starts her video with the fairly ubiquitous story of Grace Hopper and the first "bug" found in a computer, but quickly begins to elucidate listeners on words they have been using that are not only offensive but downright racist and even harmful to veterans who have participated in the ravages of war.
- foobar (fubar) -- Brittany was unaware that foobar stands for "Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition". A veteran in one of Storoz's classes explained to her that fubar had its origins in the military. For instance, your buddy comes back to the base after a mission and is fucked up beyond all recognition. Brittany suggests that geeks have lightened the term to mean "Fouled Up Beyond All Repair". In any case, according to Brittany using foobar "can still be very triggering" for veterans and she now refrains from using it for that reason. My hope is that foo != bar much longer, and the tech community can find something to replace it. Perhaps a good alternative would be britroz. "Man, that function is "bitroz!"
- master/slave -- I was so glad she brought this up. It must be painful for black people in the tech community to have to work with this hardware.
- whitelist/blacklist -- Obviously everything on the blacklist is bad because black people are bad. Conversely, everything on the whitelist is good because white people are good.
- tits on a keyboard -- This was the only phrase she mentioned that gave me pause. Was she saying she did not have tits? Maybe she did not have a keyboard?
- tar and feather -- no explanation was given...it was just listed in a short list of "really upsetting words" listed in The New Hacker's Dictionary.
- rape -- finding out this word is used by some hackers raped my mind!
After covering the etymology portion of the speech, Brittany turns to a discussion of how exclusionary the tech world is because it favors native speakers of English. She outlines ways in which we should work to change our behaviors to make it easier for non-native English speakers to participate in programming and the tech industry. Suffice it to say, those that are unwilling to change their behavior should be tared and feathered until they are foobar, I mean britroz. I support free speech, I support free speech, I support free speech. Sometimes I have to remind myself when I have the ironic urge to put duct tape over people's face holes.