Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Database Synonyms?

Your help is urgently needed.

Semanticists, IT types, even followers of William Safire are required: Signalwriter seeks a synonym for “database.”

You can’t bend your elbow without smacking it on the word “database.” It occurs 12 times in an article in The Economist’s 29 September number; my favorite’s a paragraph about the emergence of a “database state.” In another case, one client’s rough draft used the word four times in two short sentences.

The lack of a synonym threatens us all (except, apparently, The Economist writers: The article actually reads extremely well and contributes the alternative “databank”).


No, you cannot offer “information silo.” It ain’t elegant. Unless I’ve missed a major source, I reckon a euphonious (nice-sounding) synonym seems to be among the missing.

I’ve trolled the Internet, wandering among online thesauruses – no luck to speak of. Try out The Visual Thesaurus (which is a mighty cute gimmick) and what you get is “database” surrounded by a modest galaxy of adjectival modifiers such as “computer” and “online.” Little help there…though it does take you from “information” to “skinny.”

Fingering through the modern mish-mash, I Googled up the National Science Foundation: One of the recent visions is that of Semantic Web, which proposed semantic annotation of data, so that programs can understand it, and help in making decisions. Right.

I even went to The Source: Mary Jo Martin, Database Goddess. After a long period of grappling with this major mystery, she asked: “Ummm, can I use two words? If I can, then I’d say Information Repository.” But, of course, observed Martin: “Richard would say that I couldn’t do that.” So the principal of Cynapsus, the marketing research firm, gave it her best consideration. After deconstructing the word and consulting with Bill’s Thesaurus in MS Word on the pieces, she offered three possibilities: The first is “factcenter.” This one is very to-the-point and descriptive, but boring. Then “statisticsource” – I love the alliteration with all those Ss rolling around. Of course, it would not be good for those with a lisp. Finally, there’s “figureheart” for the sentimentalists.

I’d enter the last one into the competition, for fun. Otherwise, can we hear a shout-out for “infosource” or “bytebank” as alternatives? Ought we to give “databank” a renewed push? I’m willing to take up the cudgels for a neologistic, pleasant-sounding synonym or two, to give doughty “database” some blessed relief.

We need the gifted Seamus Heaney, his art with “swan’s road” and “frothing wave-vat,” his supple word-hoard. A poet who can whip Beowulf into shape would be my perfect synonym-generating hero.

On the other hand, honest Anglo-Saxon may be helpless in the face of 21st Century complexity. What would Beowulf have made of “laptop?”


Rob Schoenbeck said...


Leigh Lerner said...

My shot at data base synonyms:
- Table de données
- Datenbank
- List o’givens
- Infobunch
- Infocull
- Infarray
- Aggremation (aggregation + information)
- Aggredata
- Listification

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Alright! That's what I'm talking about.

Neil Fusillo said...

-Infostore (used by MS)
-Data warehouse (has other denotations)

Question is, are you referring to a database in terms of just a store of information? Or are you referring to the classical relational database model?

I mean, a store of information could just be called, simply, a list, I suppose.