Verity Stockdale“What have technology and language got to do with each other?” Verity explored the complex relationship between these seemingly distant topics. Repurposing language is far from a new thing: in fact neologisms have been giving language purists trouble since at least the 16th Century! As new technology develops, language needs to adapt to adequately describe new ideas and ways of working.

Verity referred the audience to Tom Chatfield’s book, “Netymology” which shows the long history of words most people assume to be brand new. For example, the first recorded use of O.M.G. as an acronym was way back in 1917, and the “Smiley” :) has been in use since the 19th Century. Mostly, language innovation is viewed as inevitable and indeed a necessary part of societal change, but there are some who are vehemently opposed to the alteration of language.

In France, the “Académie Franҫaise” (known as ‘Les Immortels’ – sounds like something out of Twilight!) guard the purity of the French language, with varying degrees of success. The ‘pure’ French equivalents of popular modern terms were certainly a mouthful, it’s no wonder they didn’t catch on.

Verity showed how neologisms can follow rules, so even brand new words are understandable. She gave the example of an e-sofa. Language and technology are more closely linked than you think, as one changes and develops, inevitably the other will too.