Guest column: Jargon Judge: Gibberish arising from the Web

OK, this Internet thing has gone far enough. I adapted to cyberstuff and e-everything because they were descriptive, clear and -- in the beginning -- clever, even. But I refuse to allow dot-com to be used as a verb, or to call steel-and-sheetrock malls brick-and-mortar stores.

First, in case you have been lucky enough not to hear it, let me clarify. Yes, dot-com, also known as the .com at the end of addresses for commercial Web sites, has evolved into a verb.

"The company set out to dot-com its business," trumpets a customer story (about Day-Timers) on the Sun Microsystems Web site. In other words, to Web-enable. Or even, to Webify. Yet where these "Web" words are understandable and follow conventions of the English language (adding an -ify suffix to form a verb), dot-com meets neither of those criteria.

Search the Web for dot-com and you'll find a few Web sites with the actual words in their name. There's one for registering a domain name (which, for the unacquainted, is the whole Web address up to and including the .com or other ending, such as .org or .gov). Then, there's a dot-com site that sells hats and T-shirts customised with your company name. Yet neither an Internet dot nor the ending com, separately or together, is anything near a part of everyday language.

The Internet-savvy may argue otherwise, of course. And as the Web catches on, more and more people do know that when a Web address is read aloud, the periods in it are pronounced "dot". Nonetheless, the verb looks strange -- dot-com and .com seem to occupy different parts of the brain -- and essentially is nonsense. So, don't use it, please.

Now with brick and mortar, you may think I'm splitting hairs. First of all, it's been around since the dawn of technology in distinguishing between the real and the emerging -- say, the brick-and-mortar bank branch vs the electronic, unstaffed ATM kiosk. Second, because it's a metaphor, I'd be going overboard to suggest it's not accurate because most buildings aren't built from brick and mortar anymore. Still, I find the image problematic: brick and mortar should evoke a turn-of-the-century tenement, a graceful municipal building or a solid, well-built home, not the Wal-Mart just off the freeway.

But even if you disagree with me, there's a bigger turn-off. Look at how the phrase is used: "The online venture isn't taking revenue away from the company's brick-and-mortar stores." Here, brick-and-mortar is actually superfluous. Take it out of the sentence and you comprehend the same thing. A store is something in the physical world. The online portion or unit is the new piece, the ethereal piece, the piece that gets the extra description -- the e-store, the online store, the cyberstore. To assume the reverse is to get way ahead of ourselves. We don't yet live so predominantly in a connected, electronic world that we have to step back and clarify when we mean a tangible, physical, actual thing. And personally, I hope we never do.

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