Recently my daughter, nearing 2 1/2, was playing with an old laptop we keep in the family room. She was pressing keys and buttons to varied effect, her giggles contagious. Suddenly she called out, “I’m pushing email! I’m pushing email!” My wife & I couldn’t stop laughing. We had never explicitly taught her the word “email”, though she had clearly caught on to that thing that mommy does in the office every day or so.
The phrase “pushing email” makes perfect sense to a toddler, to whom a computer is simply a toy with more buttons than usual.
But that got me thinking: The phrase also makes perfect sense to an email-drenched 36 year old. “Pushing” is exactly what emailing feels like. The constant influx in various queues (work, personal, filtered), to be dealt with one at a time: Delete? File? Mark? Reply? Hold? Route? More than any other communications medium, email involves connecting one peer to another: introducing, forwarding, routing, re-routing, and mediating. At any given time, hundreds of threads intersecting me may be in midstream somewhere awaiting a “push” from someone (usually me!). Not to mention the physical aspects of typing and mousing.
I can’t imagine a better extension of the inbox/outbox metaphor than the image of pushing electronic papers around.
In keeping with my self-appointed hobby of amateur lexicographer (I know, I know: keep my day job), I’m going to start using the phrase. IMHO it’s both more fun and more accurate than the alternatives I can think of: “checking”, “answering”, “doing”, “dealing with”, etc.
Gotta run. You know why.