Proto-Microspeak: Coceptualize


Many years ago, to see whether anybody was paying attention, a colleague and I slipped the made-up word "coceptualize" into a document.

Nobody said a thing.

Either nobody read that part of the document, or they did and thought it was a real word.

Comments (35)
  1. PinkDuck says:

    Or they did and thought it was a typo, or failed to spot the error altogether.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I just read it as conceptualize until I went back and actually looked at the word. Maybe they did too.

  3. Anonymous says:

    In the middle of the 1998 C++ Standard, there is a limrick.  (I only know of one person, who didn’t know about it in advance, finding it)

  4. Anonymous says:

    Depending on the document, I think the likely answer is that no one read it.

    Maybe it’s just my group, but nobody here (gross generalization) reads anything.  If it wasn’t said in a meeting, it was never said.

  5. Anonymous says:

    What was the context it was used in? I think if I had read it where a word like ‘conceptualize’ made sense I would almost certainly have just glossed over it. The amount of prose one reads with simple typos or malapropisms means its a fool’s (or certainly a bored pedant’s) errand to try to point them all out to the author. And also it doesn’t generally foster good feeling among colleagues – ‘Do you realise, Simon, that in your recent accounts report you used the POSSESIVE its, not the CONTRACTION it’s? No, don’t look at me like that with that stapler in your hands!’

  6. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, without knowing the context, I’d just assume it was a typo from someone who hadn’t spell-checked their document properly.

    But adding something daft to check if anyone is reading the document does have a long and distinguished tradition:

    http://www.snopes.com/music/artists/vanhalen.asp

  7. Anonymous says:

    At DEC, I once slipped a paragraph into a project plan stating that "all project members will receive an expenses-paid Caribbean vacation".  None of the reviewer/approvers noticed.

    Unfortunately, since I was (and am) a process scofflaw, I neglected to get an actual management signature on the approved plan, so the vacation was never delivered.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I used to play on a RP MUD, and a couple friends and I would make up words all the time and see how far they spread. Generally they never left the MUD community (few hundred players), but it was still funny seeing "frumulous" six months after all of us had stopped typing it.

  9. Anonymous says:

    @dave: "None of the reviewer/approvers noticed."

    More likely, they saw it as preposterous, chuckled a little, and moved on.

  10. Anonymous says:

    @jMarkP: "What was the context it was used in?"

    Don’t you mean, "what was the context in which it was used?"

  11. Anonymous says:

    It’s obviously a COM thing.  CoInitialize, CoUninitialize, CoCeptualize.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I think it is a perfectly cromulent word. I extent my most enthusiastic contrafribularities to your colleague!

  13. Anonymous says:

    If you read something for work, you rarely read the word one-by-one unless in parts where the exact wordings matters (e.g. syntax in programming language). All you want would be to get the rough meaning of the passages, that’s why we need the skill of skimming (and why lots of typos gone unnoticed).

    Chances are the readers of the document indeed don’t read the word into their mind at all.

  14. Anonymous says:

    @Tom

    "Maybe it’s just my group, but nobody here (gross generalization) reads anything."

    Oh, I can assure you it’s quite definitely not just your group.

  15. barryleiba says:

    One can imagine that that’s how words like "copacetic" came about.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I think reading it as "conceptualize" is probably what happened, because that’s how I read this blog post (and wondered, at first, what was so strange about the word).

    However, when reading, if I don’t know a word, I usually try to infer its meaning and place it on a  list in my brain to look up when I remember to.  Maybe that’s what they did too.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I agree with those who just thought it was a typo.  I find myself mentally correcting these types of mistakes in emails and presentations all the time, particularly because there are a lot of people speaking english as a second language.  

    Your results are invalid, the experiment was flawed!

  18. Anonymous says:

    Come on.  If you’re going to make up a word, it can’t be something that most people would just write off as a simple typo.  Boo, I say!  Boo!

  19. Anonymous says:

    I know of someone who sent out a weekly status report with the text, "the first person to ask me will get a free lunch" in the middle of it.

    It was weeks before lunch was claimed.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Reminds me of a former boss of mine.  I knew for a fact that he only ever read the first page of any doc he was sent, and assumed that the rest of it was OK (or not) based on that (he even admitted as much once), so I threatened one time to give him a good first page but just write any old rubbish in the rest of it (I got on well with him so I could get away with doing this).  Never followed through on it, unfortunately…

  21. Anonymous says:

    My brain does a lot of preprocessing on things like this.  I would not only not say anything, but the part of my brain that matters literally never even saw it.  By the time it reached the conscious part of my brain, it already had been patched to say "conceptualize".

    It’s like the infamous "keep off the the grass" sign–most people don’t see the doubled "the".

    I think Raymond’s brain doesn’t do that same preprocessing step, which is why he probably catches a lot of errors that other people don’t.  It’s probably like having perfect pitch, though–useful but also extremely annoying as you have to suffer through the artifacts of everyone else who doesn’t have perfect pitch.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Golgafrincham: Think about the somehow famous post that the author intentionally spell every letters in word in wrong order yet still you can "read" the post correctly, it’s not the strange at all.

    Afterall Raymond has spell most of the letters correctly (assuming the word is "conceptualize").

    But it’d be great to see where this word is found in the origional document to see whether this word fits.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Golgafrincham: Think about the somehow famous post that the author intentionally spell every letters in word in wrong order yet still you can "read" the post correctly, it’s not that strange at all.

    Afterall Raymond has spell most of the letters correctly (assuming the word is "conceptualize").

    But it’d be great to see where this word is found in the origional document to see whether this word fits.

  24. Anonymous says:

    @Cheong: And yet, it’s not completely true. There are plenty of transformations that prove it won’t work.

    Turns out that that phrase was carefully crafted, and its results can fail if you just randomly mess the words up.

    Senops has more on this peehmnnoon (phenomenon)

    http://www.snopes.com/language/apocryph/cambridge.asp

  25. Anonymous says:

    @Michael G

    RE: It’s like the infamous "keep off the the grass" sign–most people don’t see the doubled "the".

    Heh, you don’t need a sign for that, you got me as I was reading it here :D

  26. GordonSchumacher says:

    @jMarkP: I dunno, it depends on your co-workers.  I’m at a startup these days; last Christmas, the founder got the group manager one of these for a gift:

    http://www.signals.com/signals/T-Shirts-Sweatshirts_1GA/Item_I-Am-The-Grammarian-Shirts_HF6961G_ps_cti-1GA.html

    It’s thoroughly appropriate, and it’s not unusual for us to divert onto a language discussion where the language in question is English (or American!) instead of C++…

  27. Anonymous says:

    While working on NLP with real grammarians, I saw more ideas’ grammar/spelling critiqued than the ideas themselves.  I deliberately focus on the ideas when reviewing a document.  Unless you’re polishing a doc to present, what does the grammar police routine really accomplish?

  28. Anonymous says:

    Nobody reads anything. Consequently, you don’t write things to inform other people, you write things for other people to sign so you have something to point to when things go cataclysmic.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Or, like others mentioned, folks read it and dismissed it as a tiny, meaningless typo.

    That people didn’t go crazy about your pretend word that is one edit distance from a real word isn’t something to get all giggly about.

  30. bpaddock says:

    This post left me feeling stuponfucious.

    (reference material: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2003/12/10/ )

  31. Anonymous says:

    I have to agree that "coceptualize" looks too much like a type of "conceptualize".  Try something like "proceptualize" instead; completely meaningless but sounds as if it might be a real word.

  32. Anonymous says:

    The nonesense term I use from time to time is "Dynamic Paradigm". It’s occasionally repeated, and never questioned, so far.

  33. Anonymous says:

    I slipped a (fairly long) Stalin quote into the middle of a software manual once.  It wasn’t noticed until long, long after it had shipped (luckily I had a boss with a sense of humor).

  34. Anonymous says:

    The story about Van Halen demanding bowls of M&Ms with all the brown ones taken out started the same way – they put that demand into the contract to make sure that the concert promoter had actually read it. http://www.snopes.com/music/artists/vanhalen.asp

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