They're Not Fonts!

They're Not Fonts!

It seems one of the inadvertent consequences of the communication revolution of the past decade has been a sort of cross-industry amalgamation (read bastardization, if you prefer) of language. With volumes of previously privileged information literally at the fingertips of anyone with a computer, most of us go through life with what we consider a working knowledge of any number of careers that have little or nothing to do with our own. Depending on the circumstances, this “working vocabulary"? of the masses can be annoying, amusing, or downright dangerous.

Typically, at this point, I would launch into a mini-tirade on the pandemic misuse of the term “font." But AIGA has already done it better than I would, and that’s not really the point of this post.

My point here is that we designers are not the only victims. Not only that, we may inflict just as much damage on the sacred etymology of other professions as the newly computer-literate world has on ours. The following mainstream malapropisms come courtesy of several non-designer friends (none of whom, I must note, seem nearly as miffed about this whole trend as I am.)

“BLOW UP" vs. “ENLARGE" : There are no explosives involved in increasing the size of a photographic print (though I still wouldn’t try to carry-on your portable darkroom, Lexy.)

“VIN NUMBER" : VIN is an acronym for “vehicle identificationnumber." The redundancy that’s become our common usage has also become a big red flag proclaiming to car sales-people everywhere, “I don’t know nearly as much as I think I do."

“IV" : while we’re on acronyms, this is a rather funny one. How often we hear people talk about getting, needing, having or hating “IVs." Turns out any such discussion is fundamentally flawed; IV stands for “intra-venous" and thus carries the grammatical requirement of a direct object of some sort. IV tube, IV line, IV fluids, IV meds, IV needle—just not IV.

“LOG-ON" vs. “LOGIN" : Generally speaking, unless there is a password involved, we don’t do any logging—on, over, around or otherwise—when we visit a website. Yet thousands of advertisers across the country invite us to do just that. What exactly would “logging on" entail?

So, I am forced to acknowledge that design has not suffered the most egregious, or even the most frequent of degradations in this arena. Perhaps, one might argue, it doesn’t even matter if a term is connotatively correct, as long as it communicates clearly. Such slips in the precision of language may even be a small price to pay for the wholesale access we enjoy.

But they’re still not fonts!

(PS: Please feel free to post other examples of misappropriated vocabulary, professional or otherwise.)

Notes on a Rant

I Hate WalMart!

I Hate WalMart!