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6 nerd words everybody gets wrong

Mike Elgan | Dec. 1, 2015
Words matter. If you're going to talk tech, make sure you do it right.

These experiences are called "mixed reality," not "augmented reality."

Calling anything that combines the real with the virtual "augmented reality" is incorrect. The best phrase is usually "mixed reality."

Digital nomad

The phrase "digital nomad" is dated. The phrase usually refers to a person who becomes "location independent" and can live abroad or travel the world because work can be done over the Internet. It comes from the past when using a laptop to connect to the Internet and do work from a outside an office was rare.

Nowadays, people work on their smartphones, tablets and laptops from anywhere all the time. So there's nothing special about using the Internet to work outside an office.

"Digital nomad" is anachronistic -- like "color TV," "multimedia" PC, or the "worldwide web." Everyone has accepted as a mundane banality that TV is color, that PCs have speakers and that the web is global. Likewise, anyone who is away from the office -- at a Starbucks down the street or at a cyber cafe in India -- is of course able to connect to the Internet and get work done.

"Digital nomad" is an obsolete term. Someone who lives in different locations at different times is simply a "nomad."


A unicorn in Silicon Valley parlance is a pre-IPO startup with a valuation of $1 billion or more.

The only reason these startups are called unicorns is because they are so rarely seen. The term was coined two years ago by Aileen Lee, a venture capitalist and co-founder of Cowboy Ventures. At the time, there were fewer than 40.

Now, there are at least 139 unicorns. More to the point, there are several startups worth more than $10 billion and there's one worth more than $50 billion -- Uber, which is the only "Ubercorn."

We should all stop saying "unicorn." Startups with more than $1 billion valuations aren't rare anymore.


People in technology, including entrepreneurs, tech executives, venture capitalists, journalists and others have taken to referring to people who are not technical or not in the industry as "normals." The idea is that only an abnormal person would be into technology.

In fact, the use of "normals" is condescending. It's a false compliment that implies the need for a euphemism to describe someone who doesn't know about or care about technology.

It's a better idea to avoid this condescension and be specific. If we're talking about someone with a non-professional level of knowledge, then "lay person" will suffice. If we mean that someone is representative of the general public in some regard, then "average" -- as in "average consumer" or "average user" is the way to go. If we mean someone who's not an engineer or software developer, then be accurate and say "non-engineer" or "non-developer."


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