The internet is said to have made a lot of people’s jobs more difficult. Record company bosses, for instance. Or insurance companies. Or publishers. Surely another should be added to the list: lexicographers.
I was thinking the other day about how quickly new words enter everyday vocabulary. Before the internet, language evolved slowly and often in geographical pockets. Now? It’s “chav” this and “wag” that and “spam” the other (not to mention omg, wtf, lol, btw). And the fact that I am blogging about this would befuddle the 1990s you.
In fact, spam proves the point quite well. Of course, spam has existed since the year dot as a strange canned meat product. But when you say spam today you think of unsolicited (usually commercial) email. The word spam was first used in this sense in the 1980s, yet it took until at least the late 1990s for it to become a household name.
Today? Some wise guy can invent some half-arsed new term and almost instantly it is all over the internet like a rash. Or a rasher (rashr?). Of bacn.
I first heard of bacn via Gordon McLean. When I saw it at his blog I thought it was pronounced like the word ‘back’ with a rogue ‘n’ at the end. I thought it looked a bit like the name for some dodgy quango. British Autocratic Complete Numpties? (Too honest a name to be a real quango I guess.)
I soon remembered that this is “the age of the stupid removal, for no good reason, of the penultimate letter of a word if the penultimate letter is a vowel and the last letter is a consonant”. This is thanks to those wise guys at Flickr. Wankrs the lot of them. So bacn is like bacon, except now you have to delete the ‘o’ when you accidentally type it out of habit.
Putting it simply, Bacn is email you receive that isn’t spam… And isn’t personal mail. It’s the middle class of email. It’s notifications of a new post to your Facebook wall or a new follower on Twitter. It’s the Google alert for your name and the newsletter from your favorite company.
On Boing Boing it is described as “e-mail you want, just not now”.
The thing about this bacn thing, though, is that this is not really a phenomenon that I identify with. Spam is ubiquitous. We all know what it is. We all get it. We all hate it. Bacn? Not quite.
I can just about see it when it comes to the newsletter from my favourite company. But usually I just (skim) read them straight away so that they don’t pile up. I have signed up to The Economist‘s newsletters, but I almost never read them. Hardly counts as “email you want”, even though I did ask for them. The exception is the indispensable Boomkat newsletter, which is one of the first things I read on a Friday.
So what about the rest of them — Twitter follower notifications, Facebook wall post notifications and the like? Well, I do want to know about them now. I just don’t want to read them.
Google Talk comes with a handy Gmail notifier which tells me whenever I get a new email. I can just look at the subject of the email and pretty much know what it is. Take three recent notifications that I received from three different websites:
- X sent you a message on Facebook
- X is now following you on Twitter
- Please confirm story about X [from Bebo]
In each case I did not want to read the email. What a waste of time. I just marked them as read the next time I logged into Gmail. But in each case I did visit the relevant website immediately to see what was going on.
Maybe I would understand more if I was an omg wtf busy 24/7 21st century lifestyle stressed out city dude. But for me, bacn is not so much email that I want to put off reading until later. It’s email that I either want to read immediately (like the Boomkat newsletter), or not at all (Twitter followers).