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Macros2000 FAQ / About / etc.

What is a macro?

For now I’m going to skip over the traditional meaning of the word “macro” and all that it entails. For purposes of this journal, the short answer goes a little like this:

A macro is a (possibly) humorous phrase, action, or concept with a definitive source.

Of course, it’s not that simple. The expanded set of guidelines below is a good start, but there are exceptions to each rule. Macros are amorphous little things.

1. Macros are not created; they are discovered.

This is the most important aspect of Macros. You don’t suggest a macro, Macros are thrust upon you. Think Benjamin Franklin and electricity dumbed down ten thousand times. Usually you make this discovery at the end of the day, when you’re talking with a friend and you realize you’ve been repeatedly using (for example) a phrase you overheard in public somewhere earlier in the day.

2. Macros have a definitive origin.

This rule essentially eliminates most slang, and cliches. But again, there are exceptions to this rule, depending on a wide variety of ridiculously vague factors.

3. Macros are (possibly) humorous.

Here’s where we get bogged down a bit. Humor is an entirely subjective phenomenon. Chances are if something passes the first two rules, and someone finds it humorous, that’s good enough.

4. A macro is a “complete thought.”

Macros are (usually) fully-formed sentences, not slang terms used to re-define objects, for example. There are a few other fine websites that are interested in those sorts of things that are listed on the home page.

Macros are not these things with very crisp edges. There is give and take. That’s how it goes with language. I’m just a guy who collects these things. As Eric Partridge once said, “Friends – and others – have often asked me, ‘What the devil is a catch phrase?’ I don’t know.” I am in good company.

How long has this been going on?

The first document was published some time between November 1983 and April 1985. Jeff took over the list in 1987. Since then, there have been eight small Macros2000 digests printed between 1993 and 2002. The site went online in 2001 and the first entries appeared in May of 2006. In 2008 the United States economy collapsed, and then things got worse from there.

Why “macros” Why not “catch phrases” or “in-jokes”?

Because “macro” is the word that best fits the situation. “Catch phrases” is more inclusive for phrases for which the origin is unknown. There’s a general tendency to specifically avoid catch phrases that have become overused, whether by the media, or other people. The term “In-jokes” is also lacking, simply because a lot of these entries aren’t jokes, and they’re not “in” – with some macros, there’s only one person that uses certain ones. A lot of the mail I get usually includes a comment to the effect of, “I thought we were the only people doing this.”

The computer-oriented definition of “macro” as listed in the OED contains the following quotation from J. J. Donovan’s System Programming from 1972:

In employing a macro, the programmer essentially defines a single “instruction” to represent a block of code. For every occurrence of this one-line macro instruction in his program, the macro processing assembler will substitute the entire block.

So you see? Do you see?? By using a macro, you are creating a pointer to the original environment in which this phrase or situation was used, without the rigamarole of “... do you remember that one episode of ‘The Simpsons’ in which an adult “Mexican Milhouse” is rejected at the Tango de la Muerte and he said ‘¡Qué malo! Once again I must sugar my own churro’? Well, the situation we’re in right now is lot like that.”

Cut to the chase ... cut to the chase with MACROS.

What about “Sniglets”?

“Sniglets” are different than macros in that Sniglets are made-up words for things that have no formal name. I’ve cooked up a typical example below:

You know that little part of the stapler that sort of functions as a pivot point? The cylindrical little bit? Well, I call that a insinkeratorferschluggeinstartermotordinkerfankertaeboshen.

What about “Family Words”?

The book “Family Words” by Paul Dickson contains several examples of phrases that would certainly be considered macros, such as “It was Milk Duds” and “The alligator blinks.” But for the most part, entries in “Family Words”consist of Sniglet-type made-up words or existing words used in a different manner.