Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Documents, My Lord

I have long had something of an issue with the inclusion of personal pronouns within labels used to identify elements of a computer interface. In other words, I don't like "My Documents", "My Photos", "My Music", or any of the other "My ..." things that have been increasingly evident on Windows machines.

On one rather naive level, it's good interface design.  It's simple and intuitive. It tells you what is in there, and it does it in a friendly, personal way. That's find until you have to describe anything to do with it, or provide any sort of support. Then you end up referring to things like "your My Documents folder", because the kind of people who need that kind of support tend to get confused if you say to them "click on My Documents". They are likely to ask "How can I click on your documents?" It's a mess. A disaster. It's horrid.  It's up there with my dad's response when I was trying to help him with a PC problem once over the phone:

"Are there any other windows open?"

"Hing oan a minute ..." (long silence) "Aye, the wan in the kitchen."

"My" and "our" are relative references. What they refer to changes depending on who is saying it. And therein lies the potential for confusion.

Another example of this struck me the first time I visited Thailand, towards the end of 2000. I had never before given any thought to people using the phrase "Our Lord", until the tour guide at the Royal Palace in Bangkok mentioned "Our Lord Buddha". And it struck me that I had never questioned that phrase when used in a Christian context, but actually, I find it quite objectionable, because when someone uses it, they are subtly implying that both the speaker and the listener are both serfs of the lord in question, be it Buddha, be it Jesus. So, when someone says "Our Lord Jesus", or simply "Our Lord", I feel obliged henceforth to say "He's not my lord. He might be yours, but he's not mine."

Maybe I should make a point of doing that for Lent. Or perhaps for lent I should give up believing in bronze age myths. Ah, who am I kidding - I stopped believing in them a long time ago. Both the old myths (christianity, etc.) and the new myths (new-age nonsense of any description) are now completely consigned to the dustbin of my past. And good riddance.

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