Read D.F.'s bio and previous columns
July 28, 2008
You Want to Ping Me?
I’ve Got a Ping for You, Buddy!
You know who you are. You like to use new words, or better yet, old
words in a new, hip and trendy way. You’ve been around a long time.
Fifteen years ago, you couldn’t stop talking about paradigms, and the
need for new ones, even though you weren’t really sure what the old ones
were. Let a trendy word fly back and forth across the office a few
times, and you’ll catch it in a butterfly net, mount it to your desk and
display it for all the world to see.
And now, unrepentant as ever, you want to ping everyone.
This is the latest way for office-trend-speakers to say they’ll get back
to you on something. “Let me ping you back on that.”
much better than calling back, writing back or even shouting back – to
ping back is to truly, most certainly, er, well . . . ping!
usual, this latest vernacular monstrosity arose from a perfectly
legitimate expression, twisted its meaning beyond all recognition and
gave cheesy office poseurs the opportunity to sound hip and
sophisticated – except to those of us who are on to their game.
ping can be several things. It can precede pong. It can be the sound of
a ball hitting a bat in a college baseball game. It is the name of 90
percent of all pandas. And it also refers to a technique that geeky
computer types use to make sure a network connection is working.
Stripping this down to eliminate the incomprehensible geekocity, a
signal is sent from one Internet Protocol (IP) address to another. If
the signal is successfully delivered, the recipient IP will
automatically send an acknowledgement or “ping” back to the sender.
Thus, the connection works.
This is all well and good, and we certainly appreciate the efforts of
geeks to ensure network connections are working, lest the rest of us
have to be bothered with such things. But I’m having a hard time seeing
what’s so cool about this that other forms of communication need to be
named after it.
“D.F.,” said the client. “I just pinged you on this Brownstone matter.”
Oh look. An e-mail. Sorry, I mean a “ping.”
“D.F., can you ping me back on that United billing issue?” said the
vendor. If it means taking an aluminum bat to his cranium, it’s sounding
very appealing at this moment.
One rule of silly business vernacular is that you can rarely if ever
limit the use of the trendy word to what it actually means. The same
thing happened with “paradigm” when it became the word du jour.
The word actually refers to an idea or set of facts that people consider
to be unassailable, and within which everything must take place. So, for
instance, the tool and die company whose entire operation is structured
to serve the automotive industry doesn’t know what to do when it gets a
big opportunity from a company that makes trash cans. Its paradigm keeps
it from being able to think in terms of anything but car parts, and
without the paradigm shift, it can’t take advantage of the different
kind of opportunity.
what happened? Guys are standing around the water cooler, they’re done
discussing last night’s Seinfeld episode, and they start
complaining the way the receptionist answers the phone by declaring,
“She needs to change her paradigm.”
That’s not a paradigm! She just needs to stop sounding like such an
idiot when she answers the phone! Sort of like you sound when you use
words you don’t actually understand.
The use of such trendy business words is accompanied by the subtle
implication that the user of the trendy word is more up to speed than
you are on where the business world is going. He probably reads Thomas
Friedman columns and thinks they’re prescient. He walks around and says
things like, “The future of the business world can be summarized in
three bullet points.”
course, he’ll then misappropriate terms like “frontier” and “cutting
edge” to try to prove his point. That’s OK. Inform him that you’ll soon
ping him on all this. And as soon as he turns his back, reach for your
aluminum bat . . .
© 2008 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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