Brave New Worlds and Words 

Rosie Right

The new cyber-economy is spawning many words and new uses for old words. There is one, however, of which Rosie is already tiring: virtual. Starting with virtual reality, everything is now apparently virtual. In the not-so-long-ago days (1987) The Random House Dictionary gave as the first definition of virtual; "being in such power, force or effect, though not actually or expressly such: a virtual dependence on charity." There is no definition for the phrase virtual reality. Today, The Oxford Dictionary of New Words published in 1997 gives us the current electronic meaning: "In computing: not physically existing but made to appear so from the point of view of the user; involving the replication of a physical object by an electronic equivalent. "The word virtual has been employed in computing since the late fifties to describe techniques for simulating memory space, disk storage and operating environments. However, the current usage stems from the development of the phrase virtual reality in the early eighties. It refers to a computer-generated visual environment that a person can move about in and interact with, for example by touching or moving 'objects' ... at various levels of verisimilitude, such systems are now used in training, medicine, scientific and technical simulations, military exercises, and entertainment ... "With the growth in computer-based communications in the eighties and nineties, the word virtual also took on a weakened sense referring to the replacement of a physical entity by an electronic equivalent using telecommunications. A virtual community is one which 'meets' and interacts through the medium of the NET ..." Some examples: virtual environments, virtual landscapes, virtual sex, virtual communities, virtual spaces virtual words, virtual therapy. In addition to being tired of the word virtual Rosie believes most of us would still like for life to be filled with friends, community and authentic periences. As far as she is concerned, she would like to hear more of the word real. Talk the Talk:
Here are some new words listed in the World Wide Words site maintained by Michael Quinion: (worldwidewords@listserve.linguistlist.org) Entreprenerd — "A sarcastic term, a blend of entrepreneur and nerd, applied to commercially minded innovators who are shaping electronic commerce over the Internet. Fasherati — "based on literati ... this refers to all those who insist on being the first to have the latest and most exclusive fashions

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