What did I just say?

When I was at The Iron Yard in Austin, I struggled with using the language of coding language. It felt hokey. I was embarrassed to say things like “passed in” or “instance”. I felt like a poseuse. I also was nervous about being called out for it. Hear me out.

Language is often used as a way to exclude others. It is the secret handshake. Doubt me? Misuse a word that belongs to a certain group. I dare you to say “between him and I” (yes, Grammarly, I know. I’m making a point; don’t make me sic you). to a group of English teachers. Mispronounce “meme” to a teen. Tell a scientist that you have the “stomach flu”. How else can people better identify who is in and who is out? As a dual US-Australian citizen, I deal with this all the time when I choose to keep my Aus/UK spelling when I do my own writing. It’s my way of keeping my Australian identity while in Texas.

To protect my ego, I resisted. I can’t misuse the terms if I just don’t use them or if I use my own slangy terms. The problem is that the language is part of that culture. My instructors pointed out that if I want to be a developer, I have to use the right words. It stung. It felt like a criticism. Ok. It was. We need to not be so sensitive about criticism and using “critique” to soften it. I was not doing the right thing by me if I wanted to become a developer. If my instructors had let that slide, they’d have failed me. I got that. I was a teacher once and loathe letting things slide because it might hurt feelings. If seasoned developers laugh at me for using the word in the wrong situation, then they are the jerks. I had to let that go.

Still, new vocabulary doesn’t happen overnight. I had to hear the words, read the words, use and misuse the words until I didn’t realise I was no longer thinking about them. After I left the boot camp, newly minted and freshly scrubbed, I read coding blogs, logged hours in video tutorials, and talked to others about code. Somewhere along the way, these terms became a part of my own language. I noticed it when I was explaining functions to a middle school student. For some reason, after saying “passed in”, I paused. I don’t think the child noticed, but I had to take a breath.What did I just say? When did that happen? When did it become natural and not something I actively thought about? One day I hope to be the mentor to someone switching careers to become a software engineer. I want to be the safe person to practice speaking the language of code. Excluding is easy and all over the place. Let me not be that person.

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