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Data Center or Datacenter?

The Computer Corner

By Charles Miller

A portmanteau is a suitcase that opens into two equal halves, or in linguistics is a combination of two or more words into a single new word. Motel is a combination of motor and hotel, newscast is from news and broadcast, and even the word portmanteau itself is derived from the French words for porter and coat. This subject came up in an exchange with one of my proofreaders who questioned if last week’s column should have read “data center” or “datacenter.” I had used both!

The prominence of Information Technology in our lives over the last pair of decades has introduced many IT portmanteaus into common usage. IT professionals have long used titles, such as “sysadmin” from system and administrator as well as “sysop” combining system and operator. What many everyday computer users may not realize is that other common words share this etymology. The word “blog” is from web and log, and “freeware” from free and software, “shareware” from share and software while “malware” is from malicious and software.

Some portmanteaus have probably been mistaken for acronyms. These include “modem” which is actually from modulator and demodulator, “bit” short for binary and digit, “pixel” from picture and element, and “codec” from coder and decoder.

Ever since Microsoft and Wordperfect started the ball rolling, portmanteaus have been popular brand names in the IT world. Most people who use the program every day are unaware that “Skype” comes from sky and peer-to-peer. “Mozilla” was formed from “Mosaic killer” + Godzilla. “Wintel” is from Windows and Intel. The term “podcast” originated with Apple’s iPod and broadcast. “Linux” is named for its original author Linus Torvalds and Unix. “Hackintosh” combines hack and Macintosh. “Intellivision,” combines intelligent and television, and that is an oxymoron if there ever was one.

All of us who go online are now referred to as “netizens,” a word formed from internet and citizen. You are considered a good netizen if you practice good “netiquette,” a word created from internet and etiquette. “Emoticon” is the term coined from emotion and icon, to name :) and .

A few terms more and more often seen online include “Webcast” that refers to a broadcast found on the World Wide Web and “webinar” is www and seminar. I should not forget to include “webpage,” and by now I probably do not even need to give attribution to the origin of that term.

When you go online looking for information on how to use your new computer or its software, this can often be found in a “knowledgebase” (knowledge + database) located on the web site belonging to the maker of your product. The information found in such a database might be sorted by “alphanumeric” (alphabetic + numeric) or “asciibetical” (ASCII + alphabetical) order.

I could probably go on and on about that promiscuous word “electronic.” All of our vocabularies now include email (electronic + mail), ecommerce, ebook, edating, efile, emeeting, ebanking, emenu, eticket, ewallet, and elife (e.g. social media such as Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter). The great hyphen debate, whether it is more proper to write “email” or “e-mail,” is something I think I shall not get into this week.

And about my proofreader’s question of “data center” versus “datacenter?” I did a quick (meaning: perhaps accurate?) online query to determine the New York Times web site used “data center” 3,025 times while using “datacenter” only 911 times. The Washington Post appears to use “data center” exclusively, and the Associated Press seems to have used “datacenter” only 10 times while using “data center” more than 2,000 times in articles I searched.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044-415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at)


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