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Tech nous is one yotta of an advantage in Scrabble

Tech nous is one yotta of an advantage in Scrabble

If, like me, you’re fond of a word game or two – Scrabble, Boggle, Upwords and Jamble that sort of thing – a smidgeon of IT knowledge can certainly be a useful thing (as I found to my benefit during a very enjoyable and not to mention winning word-playing holiday period).

I’ve found that the tricky end-of-alphabet letters – Q, X, Y and Z – are definitely a little easier to handle with some tech help. Of course, proper names are out – Linux, Jaz, Xen, Zune, Zope, to name a few. Ditto acronyms, abbreviations, or initialism, although XQL, QSIG or ZIF would be nice. Nevertheless, there’s still plenty of IT-inspiration out there, if you take the time to look and memorise.

Quantum (the smallest possible discrete unit of any physical property) is good; qubit (a quantum bit) is even better. Then there’s quiesce (to put a computer resource into a temporarily inactive state) … and, of course, unquiesce (okay, so you could use reset, but where’s the fun in that?). For some reason, however, I was never allowed QWERTY.

As for Y, not a yotta … that’s 1024 of things like bits and bytes. Byte and cyber are pretty obvious. But how about nym, a name used on the internet in order to conceal the user’s real identity? Or sysop, the person – or system operator – who runs a computer server?

Mux is useful (short for multiplexing) and demux (the device that’s on the receiving end of the signal). Pixel is common enough nowadays, so what about trying voxel, a unit of graphic information that defines a point in three-dimensional space? Cool, huh.

I think one of my favourites has to be grawlix, a sequence of typographical symbols used to represent a non-specific, profane word or phrase. Like #@$%*!

Things like zap, zone, zombie, zip and zipping we can’t really claim as our own. Zoetrope was an early form of motion picture projector. Zsh is a shell (command interpreter) of the Bourne shell family, which also includes bash and the Korn shell. I must admit I don’t have the faintest idea what this means but I’ll take it. Using zoopraxiscope, on the other hand, just strikes me as showing off.

Hands up anyone who likes futzing around, that experimental interaction between a human being and a computer. I never knew there was actually a word for it – I’d always assumed it was called time wasting.

With some words there’s also a bit of a double whammy. Hypertext is an obvious example. I’ve already mentioned yottabyte. Other useful prefix multipliers are exa something or other (one billion billion, or one quintillion) – like exabyte or exabinary – and zetta (a sextillion or 1021).

All good stuff I think you’ll agree. Perhaps there’s even an argument for playing with only tech-related words. Whatever your lexicon of choice, however, technology can certainly come to the wordsmith’s rescue… or start a big fight. Either way, it’s never boring.

[Editor’s note: Of course the geek factor of using tech words is much higher when playing Scrabulous on Facebook to which this editor had a brief addiction in recent times!]


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