I’ve heard people claiming that with the internet we’re growing dumb by having such a plethora of information at our finger tips. I never bought much into the argument, but maybe it does have some merit, particularly when the information that is closest to our finger tips is wrong.
I’m delivering a presentation today to the CPI software congress. Yesterday I showed a colleague the content, and mentioned the segways I had in mind – referring to the way I would try to transition the content through different slides. He looked at me puzzled, and asked what a two wheel device for getting around the airport had to do with anything. Despite being British, he was only slightly joking. He had not heard the word Segway used in its proper context, only from a product perspective – with particular highlights such as when George W. Bush fell off one.
I suggested he look up the proper meaning. We didn’t have a dictionary at hand, so Google had to do. I was gob-smacked with what came back.
Of a dozen or so references Google sent to his Blackberry; and particularly when you use the dictionary function of
define: segway, there was no mention of it actually being a word. Nope. A segway according to the leading definitions on the web is a:
- self-balancing personal transportation device with two wheels; can operate in any level pedestrian environment (wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn);
- two-wheeled, self-balancing electric vehicle invented by Dean Kamen. It is produced by Segway Inc. of New Hampshire, USA (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Segway);
- motorised personal vehicle having two wheels on one axle that balances itself using gyroscopes and tilt sensors (en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Segway)
A large update: I’ve traced the etymology of the term, and embarassingly found using the word segway in the context above comes from the Trade Marked product name – Segway.
The internet is not making us dumb, I was dumb to start with. The internet can only help.
An even bigger, and more important update:
Thanks to Tim, I’ve learned the word in question is segue. Which is a real, non-trademarkable word.
The Internet may not change the fact we are dumb, but it does have the benefit of exchange with smarter people.