nerd word peeve

Okay people, pay attention!

yes, this means you.

My job title is Senior Videoconference Engineer

I work on video conferencing equipment. I also sometimes help with audio conferences, and with web conferences.

ALL of those things can be correctly called “teleconferences” and none of them may accurately be described so.

the prefix “tele-” refers to distance.

A telephone is a device that sends SOUND (phone) over DISTANCE (tele).

A television is a device that sends PICTURES (vision) over DISTANCE (tele). Televisions also send sound, but that was old technology by the time television was invented so it got ignored when naming the device.

So, a teleconference is a conference that takes place over distance.

If someone calls me and asks for help setting up a teleconference, I immediately must ask them a bunch of questions that (to them) appear stupid.

“Do you want to have a conference in which all the people dial into a phone and can speak to one another and hear each other throughout?”


“Do you want to have a conference in which all the people are sitting in a room looking at a TV that shows someone in another city?”

I sound like a kindergartner because I have been placed in a position of redefining terms EVERY TIME the word teleconference is uttered.

Those questions do sound stupid, but the stupid comes from the question. Just because a word has 5 syllables doesn’t mean it’s meant to be used or that it makes sense.

A phone conference is a clear accurate phrase. Even a “telephone conference” is okay to say. A “television conference” is a phrase that never gets uttered. A telephone goes both ways, meaning you can talk and the other person on the other end can talk and you can both hear each other, so it seems right to have a conference (a back and forth discussion) using a telephone. But a television is one way. You recieve the video (and the sound) but you never send. So a “television conference”, as far as I know, has never been used, and kinda doesn’t make sense because when you talk to a TV you really don’t expect it to talk back.

A “video conference” is the correct term. But because televisions and telephones are such common household items, AND because they both start with tele-…we in the business tend to call phone conferences AUDIO conferences. A whole other word can sometimes shock a L-user into rethinking what they are asking for, and when they have insisted (for the 5th time) that they want “a TELE conference” and we ask “An audio conference or a video conference?”…we use words that are not part of the television/telephone diad.

audio or video…take your pick

expunge this word from the dictionary. It is non-specific to the point of destruction.