Microspeak: SQMmed


The letters SQM originally stood for Service Quality Monitoring, but that doesn't really answer the question, "What is SQM?"

SQM is the internal code name for the technologies behind what is publically known as the Microsoft Customer Experience Improvement Program. This is a voluntary program that customers can opt into, which gathers information about Office (say), information such as which menu options you use most often, how often you undo an autocorrection, what types of "impossible" things the program had to recover from, which error messages you've been shown, and which file format converters you use. (That's a quick overview of the Customer Experience Improvement Program; click through to read more, including the privacy policy.)

To me, what raises this beyond just an internal code name to the level of Microspeak is that the term has become linguistically productive. In addition to the term SQM being used to refer to the technology itself, you can also find it used as a verb: "The information gets SQMmed once a month." "Can we SQM this data?"

The letters SQM are pronounced as if it were spelled squim, which happens also to be the pronunciation of the Washington town Sequim. Along with Enumclaw, Puyallup, and Tulalip, Sequim is a Washington place name which is used to distinguish the locals from the outsiders. I strongly suspect that whoever came up with the name SQM did so specifically as a tribute to the town best known for its annual lavender festival.

Bonus history: At some point, somebody decided that the letters SQM no longer stand for Service Quality Monitoring; they now stand for Software Quality Metrics. That this change occurred without anybody noticing proves that nobody really cares what the letters stand for in the first place. I've heard from multiple sources that the original name came from the MSN team.

Pre-emptive clever comment: Verbing weirds language.

Comments (13)
  1. Anonymous says:

    Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding.

  2. Anonymous says:

    In the division of Microsoft I worked for last year, SQM and CEIP were two different programs, with different rules.

    I guess the company is so big that Microspeak has fractured into dialects.

  3. Anonymous says:

    HK(LM/CU)SoftwareMicrosoftSQMClient ammagawd, MS is tracking me with an id. J/K

    SoftwareMicrosoftMSNMessengerSQM also seems to do it, I guess it’s in some license I didn’t read since I sure as hell did not opt in.

    So, metrics like these is why features I use (but nobody else seem to) just disappear (Unlimited rebar in IE, floating deskbars etc)

  4. GregM says:

    Raymond, I think you’re missing a “stood” in the first sentence.

    asf, from what I’ve seen, it’s enabled by default in all beta versions (even required in some versions), and opt-in in production versions.  The questions originally didn’t use the CEIP term, and just asked if you wanted to send program usage data to Microsoft, or something like that.

    [Fixed, thanks. -Raymond]
  5. I humbly suggest that the past tense of SQM is SQM’d, not SQMmed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostrophe

    It is sometimes used when the normal form of an inflection seems awkward or unnatural; for example, KO’d rather than KOed (where KO is used as a verb meaning "to knock out"); "a spare pince-nez’d man" (cited in OED, entry for "pince-nez"; pince-nezed is also in citations).

  6. Anonymous says:

    I not-so-humbly suggest that the apostrophe has no business being used to create a past tense of a word. I’d rather see SQM-ed over SQM’d.

  7. Anonymous says:

    "Sequim is a Washington place name which is used to distinguish the locals from the outsiders".

    Is this an example of a Shibboleth? A word which will only be pronounced correctly by the locals, and which can therefore be used as a test of authenticity.

    In Dutch, the placename Scheveningen is reputed to have been used to detect Germans during the war. I’m sure there are many more examples.

  8. I not-so-humbly suggest that the apostrophe has no business being used to create a past tense of a word

    Tell that to Shakespeare.

  9. For example, consider the apostrophes in the opening monologue of Love’s Labor’s Lost:

    "pass’d", "arm’d", and even "regist’red"

    http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext98/2ws1210.txt

    The line after the opening monologue is quite a pearl of apostrophism as well:

    "I am resolv’d; ’tis but a three years’ fast:"

    Mmmm… apostrophes…

  10. Anonymous says:

    The alphabet used today is very different from that used by Shakespeare (24 letters vs the 26 of modern English).

    I doubt very much that the apostrophe existed in the way that it does today either.

    I don’t think referring to an ASCII transcription of an Elizabethan text (of which no original copies survive in the authors own hand) is a basis for establishing a grammatical principle.

    Besides which, those apostrophes conceivably fit perfectly with the accepted practice of simply denoting missing letters:

    Resolv’d  ==> Resolv-E-d

    in exactly the same way as used in "don’t" and "hasn’t" or "o’er the rainbow" etc etc

    This may even be being used to indicate pronunciation to fit the meter of the dialog.  i.e. to ensure the "silence" of the E’s, as opposed to the over pronunciation of them : "re-solv-d", vs "re-solve-ed" (i.e. with the final syllable pronounced to rhyme with "head").

    Incidentally, both of these explanations fit better with later uses of the apostrophe in that same text:

    "Will you prick’t with your eye"

    vs

    "Will you prick it with your eye"

    But don’t take my word for it:  http://nancyfriedman.typepad.com/away_with_words/2008/08/try-it-with-a-scramblet-egg-2.html

    (confirming that, yes, in the first instances you reference the apostrophe is connected with a past tense, but only as the usual means of indicating a shortening of the full spelling – i.e. indicating omitted letters.  The tense is changed by the spelling, the apostrophe indicates omission of certain letters in the spelling, NOT a change of tense per se).

    That is all.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Maurits: In Shakespeare, -ed was pronounced as a separated syllable, but the past-tense indicator is now effectively -d.  When abbreviations are spelled out (e.g. CD’s), the apostrophe is separating the initialism from its inflection.

    Therefore, SQMmed is (probably) pronounced "squimmed", while SQM’d is pronounced "ess-queue-emd".  SQM-ed would be pronounced "ess-queue-emm-ed", so makes no sense.

  12. Anonymous says:

    A few years ago, when I was at Microsoft, some of my British friends were laughing about the name SQM (specifically, how it’s pronounced).

    One of them said, "Maybe we should introduce a technology, and make sure its acronym is pronounced ‘SCUNT’."

    True story.

  13. Anonymous says:

    "Sequim is a Washington place name which is used to distinguish the locals from the outsiders".

    >

    Is this an example of a Shibboleth? A word which will only be pronounced correctly by the locals, and which can therefore be used as a test of authenticity.

    >

    In Dutch, the placename Scheveningen is reputed to have been used to detect Germans during the war. I’m sure there are many more examples.

    BTW, my understanding of shibboleth was that it was a non-sense Hebrew word used by the ancient Israelites to test authenticity.  Spy stuff and all.  The reason it was effective was because the "sh" and "th" sounds were somewhat unique to Hebrew in the region at the time.

Comments are closed.