Two days ago I went to an automated teller machine to withdraw some money. I inserted my card, entered my personal identification number (PIN), selected “withdraw”, selected the amount, touched “Display balance on screen” (that is, don’t print a receipt) and touched “No” to answer the question “Do you want to save this as your favourite transaction? – at which point the machine told me that I had had entered my PIN incorrectly. Right, then, why didn’t you tell me that immediately after I’d entered it? In fact, I had entered it correctly, but I’d used my credit card instead of my cash card. (It was Monday morning and my two cards are the same colour.)

Earlier this morning I was applying for a job online. I had to create a user account, so clicked “Register”.  I selected my title, typed my given name and surname, typed my email address and password twice, checked a privacy policy agreement and clicked “Save my details”. It then told me “The username you have chosen has already been taken. Please choose another username.” So … which … one … of … those … is … my … “username”? I can’t choose another given name and surname, or email address. Aha. Maybe I already registered here when I applied previously. “Forgotten your password?”. Well, actually I’ve forgotten if I’ve already registered here. Click. “Send email”. Click. Open email account (email address and password), click on email, click on link in email, enter new password twice, write new password on scrap piece of paper, then type it into an insecure document called “Passwords”. Rather than them writing “Welcome back, [given name]. You are already registered. Have you forgotten your password?” It turns out I’d applied for the same job in 2012.

[PS, my other grouch is that the Qualification field is limited to 30 characters. I typed “Master of Applied Linguistics” but couldn’t add “(Honours) (1st class)”. That’s what the certificate says, and I don’t get many chances to write it.]

[PPS, in both cases I will admit to contributing to the situation, but surely enough people do both that their systems should allow for it.]

Distinguished linguist Geoffrey Pullum has coined the term “nerdview” and typically doesn’t hold back:

The simplest way to describe the attitude of software engineers and companies to linguistic interfacing with their customers would be to say that they do not give a monkey’s fart about such matters. Not only do they never have a linguist check the use of language in the programs they expect us to use (that’ll be the day), they don’t have anybody at all checking it.


3 thoughts on “nerdview

  1. not give a monkey’s fart
    That is the first time I have ever seen these words together like this. I love it! I may have to save this phrase for use later, if ever it becomes appropriate to the situation. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine what that situation might be. Oh, maybe ol’orange Mcsmall hands, our less than illustrious president, might send me an invitation to tea at the White House. If that happens I would respond:
    Thank you for the opportunity to tell you that I do not give a monkey’s fart to be in your presence, much less done with you.
    Yeah, that would work beautifully.


  2. When I first read that post, the phrase ‘not give a monkey’s fart’ struck me as colourful but a standard use of the template ‘not give a N1’s N2’. But looking on the internet now, it seems that Geoff invented it for the occasion. There are videos of actual monkeys actually farting, and animated monkeys animatedly farting, but none of that phrase.

    The most common expression seems to be ‘not give a rat’s arse’, which one website credits as Australian.

    In one of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books, Douglas Adams uses the phrase ‘not worth a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys’, so the template is highly flexible.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Translators, are you guilty of nerdview? | A Smart Translator's Reunion

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