Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Newbie vs. Neophyte

I propose that we eliminate "newbie" and its variants from the vernacular and adopt "neophyte" in it's place.

A seedling in the hand.
It's all about what we do with the potential.

"Newbie" denotes beginner but its connotations are about what is lacking. It has a tone of inferiority which, thanks to usage, is probably inescapable. (Our youngest son came crying to us one day, "He called me a noob!" It genuinely hurt his feelings. Children are the social canaries.)

"Neophyte" also denotes beginner but its connotations are about potential. It comes from ecclesiastical Latin through the Greek "neophutos", literally "newly planted" from neos "new" and phuton "plant". It is about what will grow.

"Noob" can become "neo", and our thinking can shift from what isn't there to what could be there.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Justin Bera said...

I appreciate your posts, I read them whenever they show up in my RSS feeder. I'm not sure if you are joking on this topic or not, but I'll assume you are at least a little bit serious. Based on that assumption, keep in mind that while newbie in a business or volunteer setting may imply beginner, the derivative "noob" is intended to carry with is a fairly direct derogatory implication. So in the case of your son, the other party probably intended it as a put down, not just saying that he doesn't know what he is doing but that he lacks the mental capacity to simply figure it out. Kids can be mean...

Wed Jul 20, 03:24:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Yaakov said...

Thanks for your comment. I am quite serious. I appreciate that the intent is a big part of it, but the fact is that newbie and noob are, in my opinion, inextricably linked. I will aver that "newbie" doesn't have to be derogatory, but that doesn't stop its link to noob and the connotations it inherits.

Good people don't see the problem because they don't try to put others down. Misguided people feel justified. Making the newcomer bow and scrape, to any extent is, so far as I am concerned precisely the reverse of what we should be doing. Those of us who are established in whatever community they are approaching need to see them for what they are, the future, our new friends, our inheritors and vital to the continuation of whatever what have built. We need a sense of gratitude for their joining and not a sense of superiority because of the temporal accident of our coming first.

I have no illusion that simply changing a word will change the culture, but I do believe that changing the word provides an opportunity to reorient folks.

Thanks against for you comment.

Wed Jul 20, 03:56:00 PM EDT  

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