By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2006-12-21

A reader asked me today if I would comment on "e-OK" -- as a proposed term meaning "electronically OK," perhaps as a sort of parallel to the Project Mercury expression "A-OK."

It's interesting to think of the number of times, in the course of a day, when it might be useful to have a shorthand way of saying "The hardware is fine, don't push any buttons or call any techs. Just wait for the system to catch up."

One imagines an interchange like, "Is the system down?" "It's e-OK, but we're getting the quarterly work spike from finance. Wait a few minutes."

The unadorned "OK" can be dangerously ambiguous. People have long sought to distinguish its two meanings: to tell the difference between "I heard you" and "I'll do that." The Navy, for example, sneers at the Army's and Marines' "yes, sir" as ambiguous compared to the Navy's affirmative "aye aye, sir."

Some pilots may still use "Wilco" as a contraction for "will comply," although I don't often hear it on the radio myself -- "Roger, understood" or "Copy that" seem to be the preferred forms of "I heard you," while "that's affirmative" seems to be the most common form of "yeah, OK, I'll do that."

The lexicographers are not quite au courant, it seems to me, if they think that "e-" as in "electronic" means "electronic" as in "electrical connection" or "electronic circuit." My own publication, eWEEK, is only tangentially about electronics. We're about doing things with data and software and network connections rather than doing them with phone calls and paper documents.

"e-OK" might mean "the network is up, but the applications aren't keeping up with workload, so don't call the network techs -- just wait a minute." But I don't see it catching on.

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