Page last updated at 07:16 GMT, Monday, 27 April 2009 08:16 UK

Gadget jargon still confuses many

USB memory stick
Can a memory stick also be a dongle?

WAP, dongle, and cookie are some of the least understood words by the British public, according to a survey.

The Gadget Helpline surveyed more than 5,000 users and came up with a Top 10 list of technology-related words people find most confusing.

The firm says companies should use language people understand, rather than resorting to jargon.

The move is backed by the Plain English Campaign, saying it would help bring down the "walls of techno-babble".

Peter Griffiths, campaign secretary for the Plain English Campaign, told the BBC that there were ways to make things easy for users to understand.

"We need to pull our head out of the digital clouds and use plain English," he said.

Definitions: Wikipedia.

"If changing the name isn't an option then a glossary of terms would work. Not only does it explain the language, but it's a nice way of learning for people who don't have such a good grasp of the language."

Many of the words, such as Digital TV, have entered the English language but not everyone knows what they mean.

On top of that, many firms have different names for identical products, which complicates things further.

Market forces

Alex Watson, editor of Custom PC magazine, told the BBC that companies were under pressure to come up with new names and some of those would eventually wind up in our lexicon.

"Some names are just made up for marketing purposes, while others are chosen so users can relate to the term.

"One way of linking peripherals to a Mac was via an interface called FireWire. On a Sony it is called i.LINK and it's also called Lynx by Texas Instruments, even though all three are exactly the same thing. That hardly makes things easy for the consumer.

1950s TV set
Many people do not understand the difference between analogue and digital TV

"Even when the industry tries to appeal to regular people, it doesn't always work. Take Wi-Fi - it was named solely because of HiFi. Wireless fidelity doesn't actually mean anything, but the alternative was 802.11B which hardly trips off the tongue."

Mr Watson said that language frequently evolved in such a way as the term would make more sense.

"It may be called Wi-Fi but most people would call it a wireless network, which is exactly what it is," he said.

Print Sponsor

Gobbledygook advice for council
05 Mar 09 |  South of Scotland
Councils get banned jargon list
18 Mar 09 |  UK Politics
Decoding local government lingo
24 Jun 08 |  Magazine
Geekspeak still baffles web users
04 Oct 06 |  Technology

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific