Select Page Telecom Dictionary Has Its Irreverent Side By SETH SCHIESEL

One of the telecommunications industry’s sacred texts has become a bit more irreverent recently.

Since 1984, Harry Newton has published annual versions of “Newton’s Telecom Dictionary” (CMP Books), which defines many terms used in the communications and computing industries.

The book is a fixture on the desks of many who deal with the technical world (like reporters, lawyers and financial analysts) because it helps them begin to decipher mind-bending appellations like asynchronous transfer mode, orthogonal frequency division multiplexing and twisted-pair physical media dependent.

But then, on the same page as explanations of jhtml and jitter buffer management, is Mr. Newton’s definition of jello on springs: “To help create her signature sexy walk — once described as `jello on springs’ — actress Marilyn Monroe sawed off part of the heel of one of her shoes.

Previous versions included a handful of oddball entries, but Mr. Newton has given full flight to his less-technical impulses in his dictionary’s latest edition — the 18th.

Scattered among the 21,000 entries in the 859-page brick of a book are some entries that range from the quotidian, like mitzvah and whole nine yards, to the suggestive, like elevator eyes and hooker. (For the record, squirt the bird and vomit comet are terms actually used in the aerospace industry.)

“Telecom hasn’t been a very exciting subject in the last few years,” Mr. Newton said in an interview last week. “Half a million jobs have been lost. Billions of dollars of value have been wiped out. Anybody who’s forced to read this dictionary because of their job deserves a bit more than the definition of a T-1 carrier.”

And so Newton’s dictionary defines politically correct this way: “P.C. The art of saying something totally bland when a good insult would be more satisfying, and more deserved.”

Mr. Newton is not P.C.

“The only word I had to remove was `fatwa,’ ” he said, referring to the term for a decree by an Islamic religious leader, which first came to widespread Western attention when Iranian clerics issued a death fatwa against the author Salman Rushdie in 1989.

After inserting the term in the 13th edition, he said he received many calls. So, he took it out.

Mr. Newton’s own judgment of articles like this one may scarcely be charitable, given his dictionary’s definition of journalism: “The last refuge of the vaguely talented.”