March 2011 Archives

I keep seeing articles and blog entries that introduce a term or the name of a company or service or product, and then they say that the thing named “does just what the name says” (or “just what the name implies” or various variations).

And at least half the time lately when I encounter that phrase, it's in reference to a name that isn't at all clear.

For example, an article today says:

[...] keyloggers do exactly what their name implies [...]

Okay, so keyloggers . . . log keys? I would expect that most people who don't already know what a keylogger is would say “what does ‘log keys’ mean?”

Of course, the sentence goes on to explain: “[...] they log every keystroke a user makes, including passwords.”

Which is a pretty clear and reasonable explanation. And in fact, the phrase “just what the name says” (and variants) is almost always followed immediately by an explanation.

And so in most cases, it's redundant. If you're about to explain what the thing does, then why not just do so, instead of starting by saying that it's obvious what it does?

And if it really is obvious, then why explain it?

I think the impulse is an admirable one: to both explain, and apologize to people who don't need the explanation because it was obvious to them from the name.

But the phrase itself bugs me. For that purpose, I'd much rather use a parenthetical phrase like “(as the name suggests)” or “(as you might expect).” I think part of my reaction is just to the words “just” or “exactly,” which makes me feel like they're saying that the explanation should be completely obvious to everyone, and which makes me try to interpret the term literally.

As with most pet peeves, this one is minor and idiosyncratic; I imagine that plenty of you (especially those of you with a less literalist bent of mind than mind) find nothing wrong with the pattern nor even with the specific example.

But for those of you who share my peeve, here are a few more examples from the web:

Surge Protectors Do Exactly What The Name Says
So they protect surges?
retainers do exactly what the name says
If someone told me “use this to retain your teeth,” I wouldn't expect it to just keep them in place.
Carbon Copy Cloner will do exactly what the name says
It will clone a carbon copy of something?
Rapture/Accession/Celerity/Penury do exactly what the name says. Except I have added an /Echo to each one to remind myself what each one does.
If they do exactly what the name says, why do you need a reminder?
have you ever seen the show on discovery channel called Mythbusters? well, if not they do exactly what the name says
Oh, so they take ancient Greek and Roman myths and they smash them into pieces? Or do they arrest them?
[the DOF preview button] does exactly what the name says, DOF preview
Helpful explanation there.
The clone stamp does exactly what the name says
That would be handy if I had any clones I needed to stamp.
Zzz real estate does exactly what the name says
It . . . buzzes?
Jaw Juice [...] seriously does just what the name says
I'm not letting that thing anywhere near my jaw, then!

And so on. There are, of course, lots and lots of uses of these phrases in which the explanation really is obvious—but I feel like I've been seeing more cases than usual lately in which the explanation is obvious only if you already know what it is.



I was reading Suzanne Brockmann's novel The Defiant Hero, and I came across this phrase:

as they crossed the roof on their bondoons.

I had no idea what bondoons were. My dictionary didn't list the term. But a quick web search revealed the answer, in a thread about sniglets. One of the thread participants had emailed Brockmann about the word, and Brockmann had replied:

It's actually made up word—a euphemism for one's bottom that my husband created when our kids were little.

It actually first came to be as “bondoony.” Which is a somewhat silly word that made everyone laugh—especially the two-year-olds who often fell on their bondoonies.

It turns out there are a couple of other instances of the term on the web, most notably a thread from a system optimization forum from 2000:

Now there's a large pain in the bondoons.

The reason that's notable is that the book came out in 2001; presumably other people had picked up the word from Brockmann and her family before the book was published.

Google also gives a search result that includes the phrase “sitting at home on our fat bondoons,” but the article that that allegedly appears in doesn't actually contain that phrase, and Google's cached copy says the term appears only in pages linking to that page. Odd and confusing.

Anyway, pleased to be able to find the answer to the mystery so easily; thanks to the person who emailed Brockmann for asking and posting, and thanks to Brockmann for responding to that question.

Fear no noxious

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The other day, Kam and I watched the Lost (season 2) episode titled “The 23rd Psalm.” And she joked, “The 23rd Psalm—isn't that ‘I must not fear; fear is the mind-killer’?”

(For those unfamiliar with the reference, it's a line from Dune.)

Which I was really amused by. And now I'm even more amused, because I just came across two pieces of comment spam that take the 23rd Psalm in a different direction:

When i ocean on the vally associated with death.....I see absolutely no evil. As I attractive satans family room, I believe little nasty. [and then some advertising text]

And, presumably from the same spammer:

When i surfing throughout the vally connected with fatality.....I see absolutely no noxious. As I approach satans family den, I think basically no satanic. We're the online world, We are net. Do you really be aware of the connection on the electricity we need to cope with in this case? Ignored.

I especially like the phrase “surfing throughout the vally connected with fatality.” Nice work, spambot!

(I also like the phrase “satans family room.” And if you Google that phrase, you'll find a bunch more spam from this bot, including lines like “As I walk into satans family room, I'm basically no malefic.” Words to live by!)

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