Weeknote 22: IT jargon, style sheets and air pollution

Picture of John Bercow with the caption "Spare us the theatrics".

John Bercow gifs are doing the rounds on Twitter this week.

This week, I’ve been thinking about jargon. You get a lot of jargon when working in a technical job, and you get a lot of jargon when working in HR. I’m editing some IT job descriptions at the moment, so that combination has been fun.

What’s struck me is how many standard phrases are compounds of several words:

  • large-scale business change initiatives
  • industry-standard project management methodologies
  • third-party supplier relationships
  • user acceptance testing
  • full project life cycle implementations.

It’s a minefield deciding where to put the hyphens. I couldn’t help feeling it would be easier if I was editing in German, and they’d just be long compound words.

*Checks Google Translate* – well, maybe not. But there is one word for project life cycle: Projektlebenszyklus. And Unternehmensveränderung  means “corporate change“. Disappointingly, the German for user acceptance testing appears to be User Acceptance Testing.

On the subject of languages, this week I also found out the Spanish for “page not found”.

And I was quite excited to see a blog post titled “Policymaker, policy maker, or policy-maker?” Ooh, I thought, I need to know that. It was a helpful post about style sheets, but sadly it didn’t answer the question in the title. A very niche form of clickbait!

(In case you’re wondering, the author biography tells us that he does “policy-making”. So that’s a clue.)

What I’ve been reading

I’ve just finished reading Clearing the Air by Tim Smedley. Tim’s a former colleague who’s made a name for himself as a sustainability journalist.

His first book is about air pollution and what to do about it.  I know from experience how serious this is: every time I get off the train at Oxford I notice the poor air quality. And, as Tim’s book shows, that’s nothing compared to other places around the world.

It’s a well researched and (despite large amounts of science and statistics) engagingly told story. There is hope: “It is a local problem, and solvable locally.” (And, to be fair, Oxford is trying to change.)

And here are some interesting facts. In 1900, there were 600 electric taxis driving around New York. (Yes, you read that right.) Oh, and trendy wood-burning stoves are part of the problem.

Those were both in the first part: the problem. The second part, fortunately, is about solutions so you finish the book with a certain amount of hope (with the usual caveats, of course).

There are plenty of solutions, some already happening and some being researched.  Some are obvious: car-sharing, electrification, renewables. And some of them are innovative, like the rather wonderful idea of using “vertical forests” to absorb pollutants.

All these things, of course, will also help with problems like climate change but, unlike climate change, the impact of air pollution can actually be reversed.

And if you want a tl;dr summary, the book ends with two “clean air blueprints”: one for cities, and one “for you”. So there’s no excuse.

In other news

John Bercow has completed his career as Speaker. Two BBC data journalists have helpfully put together “the Bercow story in statistics”. I particularly liked the graph showing “Words Mr Bercow uses that no other Speaker has said in 100 years”.

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