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"cow-orkers" - why?
February 25, 2005 9:01 PM   Subscribe

"cow-orkers" -- why do you write this? I see it on Usenet and elsewhere, and the term seems insulting, but by context is not always meant to be... if it's not always implying one's co-workers are large, slow-moving, cud-chewing beasts, what else is going on?
posted by Rash to Writing & Language (28 answers total)
 
It's a Dilbert reference.
posted by mcwetboy at 9:06 PM on February 25, 2005


the jargon lexicon indicates it originated before dilbert: cow orker.
posted by gac at 9:09 PM on February 25, 2005


It jumped from Usenet to Dilbert through the Dilbert e-mail newsletter. Dilbert readers started using it in stories they sent to Adams because so much of the discussion was about stupid things at work, and referring to one's slower colleagues in a desultory fashion came naturally. I'm unsure if Adams ever actually used it in the strip, but it was definitely all over the newsletter in the late '90s.
posted by kindall at 9:13 PM on February 25, 2005


This was common jargon in alt.folklore.urban as early as 1995, possibly earlier.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:29 PM on February 25, 2005


It's commonly used by Cory Doctorow currently, who has a somewhat popular site.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:32 PM on February 25, 2005


it's one of those jokes... you know, the kind that aren't funny.
posted by crunchland at 9:42 PM on February 25, 2005


I believe it began in alt.sysadmin.recovery, aka the scary devil monastery, along with other amusing typo-conventions such as conslutant and froup.

crunchland, they weren't jokes exactly, more a kind of in-group signifier, telling readers that a certain world-weary disdain for lusers and the workplace (or indeed orkplace) was to be taken as read.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:51 PM on February 25, 2005


Yeah, crunch -- that's what I'm looking
for -- what do people mean by it?

Not, when did it start, or from where.
posted by Rash at 9:51 PM on February 25, 2005


What they generally actually mean is "Aren't I cool for knowing this in-group signifier."
posted by kindall at 10:06 PM on February 25, 2005


Its a shibboleth.

Like intarweb. Or please hope me.
posted by Mid at 10:26 PM on February 25, 2005


if it's not always implying one's co-workers are large, slow-moving, cud-chewing beasts

Surely it doesn't imply that they are large ruminants.

It implies that they ork large ruminants.

I think it's just word play. It doesn't usually mean anything other than that you can take coworker and split it as co-worker or cow-orker, and that the idea of someone orking a cow is funny. Or at least funnier than co-worker.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:35 PM on February 25, 2005


I've seen it as cow-irker, which I like.
posted by Nothing at 10:44 PM on February 25, 2005


that's what I'm looking
for -- what do people mean by it?


I always took it to mean that your colleagues have a herd mentality. Like the way we can insult someone by calling them a sheep. Slow-moving is probably implied too.
posted by agropyron at 10:53 PM on February 25, 2005


In ASR use, it did not necessarily imply insult. It was just an in-joke, nothing more.

Conslutant, on the other hand, was definitely a deliberate slur.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:35 PM on February 25, 2005


In the Dilbert context, it just means "the idiots I have to work with." Without actually saying anything -- the verb "to ork" obviously is just a joke, just the result of wordplay -- it at once makes them a bit backward (they are among cows) and a bit vile (they do something odd to cows).
posted by pracowity at 11:46 PM on February 25, 2005


Yeah, I knew it from a.f.u and it meant nothing more than "this is the accepted way of writing coworker amongst the group"... Nothing was particularly implied, pejorative or otherwise.
posted by benzo8 at 12:07 AM on February 26, 2005


For some reason I was thinking it was one of the humorous glossary entries in Douglas Adam's "Generation X"... but I don't have a copy here to check.
posted by web-goddess at 3:34 AM on February 26, 2005


Douglas Adams?? Sorry, I've got towels on the brain. I meant Douglas Copeland.
posted by web-goddess at 3:35 AM on February 26, 2005


Using google groups, I found it in the signature of a poster to alt.sca as far back as 1989. He makes a joke out of it: "Are you a cow orker? Would you like to be one? Send $5 and a SASE to me."

It's just an enshrined mistype; computery people use it. If I'm chatting with someone and they say 'cow orker', I know what sort of a person I'm talking to. Same kind of person whose answer to "Is the red light on a stop light on the top or the bottom where you live?" would be "Yes."
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:46 AM on February 26, 2005


ah. people with broken english parsers?
posted by andrew cooke at 5:26 AM on February 26, 2005


See also: "teh"
posted by briank at 6:09 AM on February 26, 2005


(i wish teh wasn't "something". i type it all the damn time and it's annoying in extremis that people then over-interpret it. like using a shell where someone has aliased sl to rm -fr *).
posted by andrew cooke at 6:33 AM on February 26, 2005


For some reason, that thing really bugs the hell out of me. Definitely a bias, but every time I see that on boingboing, I think "God, that's so San Francisco."
posted by gwint at 9:03 AM on February 26, 2005


The mother of a friend of mine was using it in the 1980s. She was a copy editor, so I think it was just wordplay.
posted by pmurray63 at 10:25 AM on February 26, 2005


Definitely a bias, but every time I see that on boingboing, I think "God, that's so San Francisco."


It bugs me too, cause it's just not funny... at all. However, I don't believe it's a regional phenominon. Therefore your bias is unfounded. You know, unfunny things are said all the time, by people all over the world.
posted by o0o0o at 11:20 AM on February 26, 2005


Cow-orker... hmmm... no, I prefer to say, "Sheeple."

/very late to this thread
posted by C.Batt at 4:28 PM on February 26, 2005


Eww, C.Batt, sheeple/sheople is oft-used in the white supremacist realm. It's got overtones.
posted by scruss at 5:54 PM on February 26, 2005


"Sheeple" is also used by rabid anti-corporate lefties. They have in common with white supremacists the conceit of a vast conspiracy that everyone would know about if only they'd open their eyes and see it. I would imagine that conspiracy theorists of many varieties employ it, actually.
posted by kindall at 11:34 PM on February 26, 2005


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