‘A Delicious Layer of Jargon’

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Robin Sloan wrote his most recent PRIMES TinyLetter on the beauty of internet forums (fora? Ha!):

It is still, even in 2018, in the age of Facebook and YouTube, of leviathan platforms that seek to absorb all exchanges for all purposes, to be the one place for everyone and everything -- it is still an internet of forums.

There’s a forum all about lawnmower maintenance that has been, basically, my repair manual for the huge zero-turn Cub Cadet we use at the olive grove. I’ve never posted, don’t even have an account; I find its threads mainly via Google search, years worth of questions asked and answered. It’s a bare-bones installation of the venerable forum software phpBB, unchanged since the early 2000s, and it’s wonderful.

One that he highlighted is one I use often: WordReference. Here’s what he had to say about it:

First, there's WordReference, used mainly by translators. There are sub-forums for not just different language pairs but different directions: Italian into English presents a different set of questions than English into Italian.

Living in Peru, one of the greatest values I get from WordReference is the region-specific definitions and forum entries for Spanish. Peruvian Spanish is worlds apart from Chilean Spanish, even though I can drive to Chile in five hours.

He ends the letter with why he has such an affinity for forums. His first reason:

Their stunning specificity. This provides both a baseline of civility and a delicious layer of jargon.

The letter isn’t publicly available, but I’m happy to forward it to you. If this peaks your interest, here’s how Robin Sloan describes his newsletter:

Brief appreciations of interesting and durable media artifacts sent on some prime-numbered days.

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