the vocabulary of a person, language, or branch of knowledge.
“the size of the English lexicon”

– Google, 14 January 2017

To communicate complex technical concepts effectively, people need to speak the same language. The use of technical terms must remain consistent and logical to promote understanding. The absence of common, consistent language hinders the free exchange and easy comprehension of ideas. This is particularly true of system administrator communities that have to deal with a huge library of technical terminology.

Nerds (I use that term affectionately and apply it to myself) have a tendency to invent their own terms for products, processes, and concepts. Some technology professionals cling to incorrect terms, even after learning the correct ones. The best of us misspeak at times, especially when terms sound similar or describe similar things. That is fine, we’re all fallible humans.

The use of incorrect terminology becomes a problem when someone knows the correct term and deliberately uses an incorrect one out of preference. Those of us who have been working on Macs since they were all-in-one beige rectangles may feel a certain amount of “geek cred” when we use older terms, but this can confuse people who are new to the topic, making it difficult to join the conversation. This can also steepen the learning curve as a person new to the topic may not be aware of all of the historical or nonstandard terminology.

At The Mac Admin, we primarily discuss Apple products and services, so we use Apple’s own style guide to describe them. When discussing any other vendors’ products we will use that vendor’s style guide where available. When a guide is not available we will use the vendors’ documentation as a guide. When we need to discuss a concept that does not have any vendor-official term, we will do our best to be consistent and remove ambiguity by defining the term the first time we use it, remaining consistent in that definition, and avoiding terms known to have many conflicting definitions.

For further reading…

Apple Style Guide by Apple Inc.

2 thoughts on “Lexicon”

  1. I wholeheartedly agree. Semantics matter, but this article feels like it’s missing some context, and isn’t providing any examples as to our collective failures as a community. What brought this on?

    My favorite is the curious case of how the Mac operating system has been called throughout the years. Most don’t understand or care to understand how to refer to the Mac Operating System and it’s various subtle name changes that have occurred throughout the years.

    Apple’s own style guide is good, but as expected, the current version doesn’t cover past naming convention, which is important especially when referring to past products. You wouldn’t call 10.4 macOS Tiger. It was Mac OS X then, and should always be referred to as such. Almost everyone refers to the iPhone Operating System as iOS, which is wasn’t for the first 3 years of its existence.

    I shall continue to strive to this goal, and help others who stumble along the way.

    Thanks Miles. 🙂


    1. Thanks for the feedback, Sean!

      I intentionally avoided specific terms because I didn’t want to ‘miss the forest for the trees’ by deep diving on particular terms, but rather address a ‘best practice’ with regard to terminology.

      The July 2017 iteration of the Apple Style Guide addresses correct names for Mac operating systems, and I believe answers the points you’ve raised…

      “In general, use macOS to refer to the Mac operating system.”

      With regard to specific versions…
      “10.12 and later: Use macOS.”

      “10.8 through 10.11: Use OS X”

      “10.0 through 10.7: Use Mac OS X.”

      This information is found under the heading “Mac operating systems”. There are a few additional subtleties, such as use of the marketing name (El Capitan, High Sierra, etc.) or version numbers.

      I hope this helps!


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