Do you know what HTML means?
An astounding 11% of Americans think it's a sexually transmitted disease, according to study conducted by Vouchercloud.net (www.vouchercloud.net), a coupons website.
Little is more central to the Web than Hypertext Markup Language, the principle language for designating how text, photos, and other elements appear when creating webpages.
HTML isn't the only tech term that isn't universally known. Fully 77% of the survey's respondents didn't know what SEO means. Search engine optimization is a crucial tool that website creators and marketers use for helping to ensure that search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing return a particular website early in their results when people type in particular search terms.
You know the USB connections on your computer? In the survey 12% of respondents thought USB was the acronym for a European country rather than for universal serial bus.
The humor in these kinds of misunderstandings was no doubt one of the purposes of the study. But the fact that these misunderstandings exist points to the reality that not everyone gets tech talk.
"It's unsurprising that a large percentage of the public doesn't know, doesn't use, and doesn't care about computer jargon," says Mac McCarthy, a freelance tech writer and author of Wine Tasting 101, in an email interview.
Jargon often gets overused or used incorrectly, in writing as in talking. It can be a way not of communicating but of showing off how much you know. Conversely, it can be a way to try to hide what you don't know. Finally, it can separate insiders from outsiders.
Buzzwords, acronyms, and abbreviations can helpfully condense complicated concepts into shorthand words and phrases, saving time. It's easier and faster to write or say HTML (usually pronounced with the individual letters sounded out, sometimes as hit-mil) than it is to write or say Hypertext Markup Language every time.
What's more, if you're a "newbie" and want to become one of the "digerati," you've got to learn the lingo. And if you're an expert, you need to sound like one. You can't walk the walk unless you can talk the talk.
Here's a handful of other terms worth knowing:
There are lots of places on the web to explore tech and other jargon. Here's a sampling:
Abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms
Internet Slang Dictionary
Teen Chat Decoder www.teenchatdecoder.com
If you're just looking for the meaning of a particular term, one quick trick is to use Google by typing in the term you're unfamiliar with followed by the word "definition" (without the quotation marks).
Reid Goldsborough is a syndicated columnist and author of the book Straight Talk About the Information Superhighway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.