Saturday, February 16, 2008


A few days back a colleague asked me to review an email that he was about to send to an engineer working for a company that outsources to us. Let’s call the colleague X and the intended recipient of the email Y. X sent me the email and X and I were going over it at my desk. I knew what the email was about so I skipped the first paragraph and was reading the rest of the email, when X asked me, “What is copulation process?”

I was taken aback at hearing this question from X. I did not understand the relationship between the mail we were reviewing and the act between a male and a female of the homo sapien species except that the word mail is a homophone of one of the entities in the heterosexual act of procreation. Also, one would not normally expect X to talk about such subjects, since X apart from being vegan, has never shown any signs of interest in the fairer gender. Thus he keeps away from all things feminine just as he does from all things bovine.

I asked X, why he was asking the question, to which he replied that Y had mentioned it in the last call that X had with Y. Now this was completely shocking, because I’ve been working with Y for about 18 months, and speak to him once a week, every week. He has never in the afore mentioned time frame spoken about anything other than work, only deviating from the task at hand to exchange pleasantries. Seeing the bewildered look on my face, X pointed me to a line in the first paragraph of the email that X had written,

“When I gave the XXXXXX1 file to the Copulation process, it generated YYYYYYY with the following errors…….”

On reading that line, I realised that the process in question was compilation2 and not copulation! X misheard what Y had said and since X’s knowledge in such matters is non existent, he thought copulation was some fancy jargon for something technical.

I proceeded to correct the offending line and suggested some other changes to the email. I told X that copulation had nothing to do with the task at hand without explaining to him what it was and X went back to his desk leaving me with a big grin on my face and blog post in the mind.

1 The names of the files have been changed to protect their privacy, since they face the risk of being thrown out their /home directories if the files they share the directory with found out that they had been inside the other

2 Technically speaking the process in question was assembling and not compilation.