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Glossolalia: Decacorns

Tuesday, 17 May, 2016

It’s the week of Pentecost, which is associated (Biblically) with “speaking in tongues,” a phenomenon linguists call glossolalia. So, in honour of all things lexical, we’re devoting this week’s posts to language. Yesterday, it was Singlish; today, it’s the turn of Valley vocabulary. The vocabulary of Silicon Valley, that is. In that vale of code, people speak of “dogfooding,” which means “using your own product or service internally as a way to validate its quality and capabilities.” According to digital lore, the word was coined in 1988 by David Cutler, who led the development of Windows NT, the basis of the modern Windows personal computer operating system.

Dogfooding is one of the many geeky terms in Valley Speak: Deciphering the Jargon of Silicon Valley by the husband-and-wife team of Rochelle Kopp and Steven Ganz. They had the very clever idea of funding the book via the crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter, and 149 backers pledged $5,545 to help make their dream come true. By Valley standards, $5,545 a modest sum, but like those mighty oaks that from little acorns grow, many a unicorn started small. A unicorn, by the way, is a startup with a valuation of a billion dollars, but such is the torrid pace of the Valley that the unicorn is now giving way to the fabled “decacorn,” which has a $10 billion valuation. All this jargon is the by-product of technology, marketing and management guff and, along with reading Valley Speak, an entertaining way of keeping up with it is to watch HBO’s satire, Silicon Valley.