Sherlocked


This weekend there was an argument on the internet.

I know. Shocking.

"The 'singular they'," posted @smarick addressing @MerriamWebster, "is an affront to grammar. Language rules are all that separate us from animals. We. Must. Stand. Firm."

So much wrong with that post. I'm not going to argue about the 'singular they', you can check out my post They for more on that.

The folks at Merriam Webster replied, "then you're talking to the wrong dictionary - we're descriptivists. We follow language, language doesn't follow us."

Such a great answer.

So many of us have spent too many hours explaining to people that "literally" means that something actually happened, not that you are providing an over-the-top example that is not literal in any sense. "Last night at the concert I waited in line for a drink for literally seven days."

No. You didn't.

And now after fighting the good fight for so many years, it turns out that literally has two meanings and the second one can be summarized as "not literally".

I've been waging a similar war against misuse of the word "Sherlocked".

In Mac and now iOS development, "Sherlocked" had a very specific meaning. Fifteen years ago, Dan Wood of Karelia Software created an app named Watson that would complement the services offered in Apple's Sherlock application (get it - Sherlock and Watson). Apple then released a version of Sherlock that didn't do anything that Sherlock had previously done and instead did what Watson had done. Dan was screwed. This new Sherlock would not have naturally grown out of the earlier versions of Sherlock. This Sherlock was clearly the result of Watson and there was no longer any viable market for Watson.

Watson was "Sherlocked".

For years I've fought against people using the term "Sherlocked" for functionality that Apple added to their OS or to apps that was natural.

Swift Playgrounds are brand new. There is no easy way to author Swift Playgrounds. Someone might create an app that makes it easy to write these playgrounds. That person shouldn't be surprised if in a year Apple adds that functionality to Xcode. That is not, I would say, being Sherlocked.

And yet it turns out that, like the word "literally", the word "Sherlocked" has taken on this second meaning. If Apple builds anything that does what your app does then people will say you've been "Sherlocked". In fact, there are always articles after WWDC or other Apple events that discuss which apps have been "Sherlocked".

If I could have my way, I wouldn't allow this use of the word. But I follow language, language doesn't follow me. Perhaps, the real solution is to insist that it only be used together with "literally".

"Man, that app was literally Sherlocked."

Better?