Stop saying ‘backslash,’ you computer illiterates
Working in a building where there are still plenty of people who are behind on the whole web/technological curve, one of my biggest pet peeves is when people say “backslash” when they really mean “slash.”
Whenever they want to put some promotion in print that refers to an online page, I get marketing or advertising or clerical people who ask me to confirm the proper URL to be printed. They inevitably say, “Okay, so the promo should tell them to go to www dot blah-blah-blah dot com, backslash something,” or whatever-the-hell.
Stop it. Stop it now.
Just how did “backslash” get into the popular computer-illiterate lexicon, anyway? If you don’t write code or at least know what a DOS prompt is — and none of these people do — how do you even have the word “backslash” in your vocabulary?
My guess: Someone who actually knew what a backslash was said it wrong in 1994 — probably on purpose — and it has been spreading through the world and contaminating vocabularies ever since.
For the last time: A slash (or forward slash, if you absolutely must) looks like this: /. A backslash looks like this: \.
The irony is that never, in the history of the popularized World Wide Web, has a backslash ever been used in a normal URL. If you type a \ into a web address, you will get an error message. (Okay, not when using Internet Explorer, which will friendlily change your \ to a /, but that’s because IE caters to Average Joe Idiot.)
To me, the difference between a slash and a backslash seems like it would be fairly easy to remember. When you draw a slash in the English language, what does it look like? That’s right, like this: /. The other symbol, the \, does not exist in regular punctuation use. You would never say “backslash” to refer to / as a punctuation mark, so why does it suddenly become “backslash” just because it’s part of a URL? Evidently, some people somehow must think that “backslash” is computerese for “slash,” maybe in the same way that “dot” is computerese for “period.” Well, think again.
Next person who comes to my desk and uses the word “backslash” gets my morning cup of coffee thrown in their face. Okay, not really. I’ll just imagine it. We are, after all, trying to run a civil office here.