CXO

The humorous side of IT

Some geek humor is only appreciated by IT pros. Alan Norton discusses clueless user stories, silly names, and more, as well as when humor and IT don't mix.

Whether you call it geek humor or IT humor, there is a class of humor told by IT professionals that only they understand and appreciate. Here are just a few categories of IT humor:

  • Stereotypical
  • Clever
  • Silly names
  • Puns
  • War stories
Warning! Humor on the job may result in the end of your career, or your head being chopped off — whichever is in season at the time of the bad joke.

Stereotypical humor

A lot of IT humor revolves around the help desk. I recently watched the British comedy The IT Crowd and heard this stereotypical IT geek gag: "Have you tried turning it off and on again?"

Then there is the stereotypical clueless user story: "I had a call from one of the ladies in our department that her laser printer wasn't working. I traipsed the quarter of a mile over to investigate. As she was trying to explain the problem, I noticed that the printer was unplugged. Problem solved. Oh well, she was a very attractive and nice young lady."

Clever humor

You call support and get a man with a thick Russian accent. You initiate a little verbal banter to brighten his day by asking if he has any kids. He replies, "Da!" You opine, "Were your kid's first words YesYes?"

Silly names

The MIS department at one company where I worked published a monthly newsletter. It's name? The MIS Information Newsletter. I always got a chuckle when I pulled it from my mailbox.

You only have to look at the names of some computer languages to realize that IT folk have a bizarre sense of humor:

  • Joy
  • BLISS
  • Hope
  • Limbo
  • MAD
  • Boo
  • Goo
  • MOO
  • SNOBOL
  • Snowball
  • Boomerang
  • Groovy
  • Linoleum
  • MUMPS
  • Pizza
  • Racket
  • Squirrel

Puns

During a managerial staff meeting the head honcho gave a 20 minute presentation about "new paradigms". I told him that I thought his concept of paradigms was only worth 20 cents. Almost every single person in the room laughed. One of those not laughing? You guessed it — my manager. For one brief moment I saw my career swirling around and down the porcelain waste removal device.

War stories

IT pros who work with clueless users inevitably have a number of war stories that they can share. This is one of my favorites from TechRepublic member Daniel.Muzrall: "I walked over, and peered into the 3.5" floppy drive. Sure enough, his disk...a neatly folded 5.25" floppy disk was jammed in there. If it don't fit, force it. If it still don't fit, get hammer..."

Want more? You can find additional war stories in the TechRepublic posts Laugh and learn from clueless users and 10 classic clueless-user stories.

Some types of humor and IT don't mix

Schadenfreude

Enjoying the misfortune of others, or schadenfreude, is one example of humor best left at home.

For example, your client is not amused when you tell him that his server has been hacked and all of the data is gone. You think it is hilarious and can't help laughing because this is the same client who berated you last week for overemphasizing security.

Sarcastic humor

You should avoid sarcasm as well. Sarcastic humor may be considered rude and not funny at all to the recipient.

Help Desk: "Hello, my name is Jonathon. May I help you?"

Frantic customer: "I think my hard drive has died."

Help Desk: "Don't worry, we'll send someone out there right away. You do have a backup, don't you?"

Frantic customer, who is now even more frantic: "No! You gotta help me!"

Help Desk with sarcasm mode on: "Hmm. Well prepared, aren't we? Guess you never were a Boy Scout, were you? Well, look at the bright side; if the hard drive is dead, you won't have to worry about cleaning up those old files and emails."

Slapstick humor

The perfect slapstick gag will almost certainly have a detrimental effect on that professional image you were trying to develop — you just don't see too many IT people running around putting pen scanners up their nose or whacking someone upside the head.

Perhaps the greatest example of "acceptable" IT slapstick humor is the cartoon of a duck about to smash a computer with a large hammer. However acceptable it is in cartoon form, your boss probably won't find it amusing should you try it yourself for a laugh and a giggle.

And finally....

What can you say about the crazy, yet amusing acronyms chosen for the business of computer technology itself? For years, "MIS" was the acronym used. Can anyone say MIStake? Now it's called IT, which is hardly an improvement. IT does allow for the clever catchphrase "IT is it!" for IT's slogan.

What silly name could we possibly see next? How about Information Computer Knowledge or Business Information Technology and Computer Hardware (this is a reference to what irate customers do)? Actually, come to think of it, those acronyms might be more appropriate than MIS or IT!

If you have a sense of humor, you just gotta love those crazy and zany IT guys and gals. How about you? Do you have a sense of humor? Share stories about how you've used humor in your IT work.

Also read: 10 ways to use humor on the job

About

Alan Norton began using PCs in 1981, when they were called microcomputers. He has worked at companies like Hughes Aircraft and CSC, where he developed client/server-based applications. Alan is currently semi-retired and starting a new career as a wri...

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