Friday Oct 02, 2009

Words Fly on Wings of Lightning

A provocative line in a song I have known since childhood declares, “Time flies on wings of lightning. We cannot call it back … ”

Based on an embarrassing social networking experience I had yesterday, I think we could safely paraphrase: “Words fly on wings of lightning. We cannot call them back!”

It all started when I noticed a comment from a prolific tweeter from London:

if you are retweeting something from google in order to get a wave invite then you are a <deleted>. and so are they. that is all.

Since I had just done that abominable thing, I quickly looked up <deleted> in the dictionary and posted this tweet:

Just learned a new word:  <deleted> = contemptible person; jerk.  Based on Twitter commentary, I must be one. :)

When that tweet reached Facebook, it triggered a small avalanche of comments.  It was great to see a friend speak up and say:

you are definitely not a <deleted>.

It was also nice to hear from a young man who used to live next door, but whom I haven’t seen in many years:

...my brother calls me a <deleted> all the time. I'm glad to get a definition on that.....sort of.

But I started to wonder what I had done when an acquaintance suggested:

Tip: Don't have this conversation with anybody from the UK.... :-) … It has a very specific meaning across the Atlantic, one that is best left unexplained on a public forum :-)

What had I done?  I quickly dug a bit deeper into the meaning of <deleted>, only to find he was exactly right.  I shouldn’t be using such language in a global forum.

Well, words had flown on wings of lightning.  I even tried to call them back via Twitter:

Actually, when I looked into it, it is definitely British slang that is not used in polite company.  Oops!

And later:

Lesson learned today: Be very, very wary of repeating slang used by a tweeter from another country.  Could be very embarrassing.

It was heartening to hear from some friends who obviously had a chuckle, but questioned my motives at first:

Whew! I frankly was a bit surprised to see the Mark Dixon I know using that term. We all learn something new every day!

Yeah Mark, I was gonna jump in and say something, but then I realized i have no business correcting anyone's language.

LOL, I was wondering when you'd figure that word out. ;-)

Well, I have been painfully reminded again that we must be very careful about what we sling out into cyberspace.  Words do indeed fly on wings of lightning!

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Discovering Identity was founded on blogs.sun.com in May 2005 as a means of documenting my exploration of the field of Identity and Access Management. In February, 2010, I switched to hosting the blog at DiscoveringIdentity.com. In March 2012, I began posting Oracle-related information in both places.

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