Vocabulary Lessons

Recently at work, I’ve been privy to a number of conversations or emails that are really amusing vocabulary lessons in disguise.  Or, at least I like to think of them that way.  It’s my automatic defense to the ridiculous level of intelligence I am surrounded by every day.  If I look at it as entertaining, I won’t think so much about how much my vocabulary just plain sucks in comparison.  Most of the work I and my immediate coworkers do involves making changes to a prodigious software system.  Each project gets named with a phrase that is meant to explain what the work is about.  Fix such-and-such file, or modify file processor to accept .xyz file type.  These names are not very exciting, and sometimes they border on obscene in their length or phrasing.  Like this one:  Reports for ABC jobs should indicate they are reports for ABC jobs.

In a meeting where upcoming projects were being discussed, my boss that doesn’t like to wear shoes took issue with the name of a new initiative.  It is called, “ABC Process Tuning.”  Tuning, to him, and probably to lots of other people, means tightening, optimizing – somehow making something run better.  But, apparently that is not what this project is really about.  It’s more like a housecleaning project.  Get rid of extra junk that’s not needed.  That project name would work for me, but my boss’ argument was this:

“That title is a misnomer.  It’s misleading.  I mean, you’re not really tuning anything, are you?  You are simply removing detritus!”

Now, I had heard that word before.  I could immediately spell it in my head.  And, it was fairly easy to determine the meaning based on context, but I didn’t really know what it meant.  Last night, lying in bed, thinking I was telling a rather funny story to my other half, I recounted this situation in some detail, and as soon as I got to the detritus punch-line, she sleepily said, “Oh, I know what that means.  It’s used all the time with regard to plant biology.”  Come on!  Am I the only person surprised to hear this term used in everyday speech?

According to dictionary.com, the meaning is:




1.  rock in small particles or other material worn or broken away from a mass, as by the action of water or glacial ice.
2.  any disintegrated material; debris.
I guess between those two, I like the first description best, because I can imagine our massive software system being slowly ground away by an ancient glacier.  The only way to survive being a software project manager is to find humor and entertainment wherever you can, no matter how cheap or weak it is….

3 thoughts on “Vocabulary Lessons

    • You know, I never doubted for a minute that you would know the definition of detritus. But, now, I am determined to find a word that you don’t know the definition of. I’ll make it a little game, limited only to the terms I hear used by the crazy smart people I work with. 🙂

  1. Pingback: My boss is a sprinter « east.bay.writer

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