Make Sure You Pay the Octroi

Octroi is my word of the week. I’m liking it because it allowed me to beat a friend at Words With Friends who had been enjoying an extended winning streak. As I write this, Microsoft Word is telling me (via the red squiggly underline) that ‘Octroi’ isn’t a word, or is a misspelled word. However, if I press Alt and Click on the word, Word pops up the research pane and presents me with the following definition:

ΔOctroi (Lat. auctor) is a local tax
collected on various articles brought
into a district for consumption.

Don’t pick on poor Microsoft; I didn’t know octroi was a word when I used it. Worse yet, I thought that ‘octor’ was a word (I actually thought it was a type of fish) and I naturally assumed that ‘octori’ would be an acceptable plural form. A bunch of fish, or I guess a school of fish. Rearranging the letters by accident led me to ‘octroi’ which let me win the game because my two remaining letters after playing that word were ‘QI’ which enabled me to score 44 points and bring a very close game to an end. I think that was an acceptable way to win, especially when there are no more letters and you’re staring at ‘OTROIIQ’ and a pretty full board (yeah, the ‘I’ in the horizontal ‘QI’ is sitting on a triple-word tile). The other reason I like octroi is because it’s jargon. Tax man’s jargon.

Working in the computer technology field, I have consistently been beat up for using jargon. I have a bunch of reviews that say “Dan needs to try to be less technical in written and oral communication” which is kind of like seeing “Dan doesn’t play well with others” on your report card. Maybe the “others” don’t play well with me – maybe they don’t know ‘octroi’ is a word. Of course my communication was technical; I was being paid to be technical! I’m sure there’s a programmer in Pakistan that has to learn what ‘octroi’ means (it seems to be one of the last places that uses the word) but nobody would accuse Pakistani (note the use of the lower case ‘i’) accountants of being too technical. The ‘too technical’ thing has always seemed to be used against the technical staff.

On the other hand, it’s not like some of the wounds to the nerds of the world aren’t self-inflicted. The familiar picture to the right is not a square with rounded corners, it’s a squircle. Once again, Word doesn’t think that’s a word but it does bring up a definition in the Research Pane. If you read about squircles you will see that the shape is used for plates because the resulting plate will hold more food than a round plate but take up the same space in a cabinet. When I operated my cabinet shop, I used to ask people to think about whether they wanted round tables, oval tables or square (or rectangular) tables with rounded corners. The latter seats more people. I never thought to ask people if they wanted a squircle table. Maybe that’s why I went out of business; I mean Apple put a squircle on the iPhone and look how well that sold.

My favorite source of jargon is NOAA. They have so many ways of describing weather, and in spite of the fact that we all generally understand what the days ahead might be like, I’m hard-pressed to explain the difference between “isolated” showers and “scattered” showers. I would assume that “mostly cloudy” will be a bit more cloudy than “partly sunny” but I’m not sure I could put a number in front of the percent sign in those forecasts. Lately, I’ve noticed a new phrase – Accretion, as in our forecast from a few days ago:

“ACCUMULATIONS, SNOW ACCUMULATION OF 6 TO 12 INCHES WITH THE HIGHER AMOUNTS MOST LIKELY NORTH OF THE MASSACHUSETTS TURNPIKE. THERE IS ALSO A POSSIBILITY FOR UP TO A TENTH OF AN INCH OF ICE ACCRETION ACROSS PORTIONS OF MASSACHUSETTS.”

In case you haven’t figured it out from the context:

Δaccretion (əˈkriːʃən) —n:
1. any gradual increase in
size, as through growth or
external addition:

That makes sense, and I was complaining a few weeks ago about not having a verb for icing, so I guess I need to get comfortable with a little meteorological jargon. Besides, NOAA is a government agency, so hiring those educated folks to tell me that ice will accrete is getting a return on the investment of my octroi.

8 thoughts on “Make Sure You Pay the Octroi

Add yours

  1. Lol Dan, I loved this post! It was so entertaining. I like word games myself. And I thought what you said about “others” maybe not knowing how to play well with you was so funny! Have a great weekend!

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  2. It occurs to me that computer lingo might be the new Latin , Also , language is constantly changing . Third , people ( school districts and politicians are good at this ) use language to obfuscate ( OBFUSCATE ? ) . Sounds like you try to clarify , instead—— right , not a team player ! Loved the post !

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  3. a squircle? No kidding! I learned 3 new words here! I have a friend who is set in his old ways (same age as me and he says he likes things the way they used to be and refuses to get on board with anything digital or newer tech than cassettes) and he and I occasionally sit down to scrabble which he claims to be the king of but I somehow beat him everytime at…CAN NOT WAIT to spring octroi on him! Thank you Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HA! I hope you get those letters. My friend made me explain the word to him, even after Words With Friends accepted it. I still can’t quite get used to using squircle, especially now that Apple has removed the image from the home button. I guess that was just a training aid for us humans. Thanks again for the great comment.

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