30 September 2011

32 Bit 64 Bit - All up in your Bitness

Here's one for the logophiles. English usage nerds. I'm coming out as a bit of a language nerd officially, today, so consider yourself warned.

In film they talk of footage. In transport, haulage. Then there are words like passage, patronage and of course cleavage. At school my friends and I would regularly put "-age" after words. "Foodage?" would mean "are you hungry?". "Skateage" was time spent skateboarding.

So what is it when you want to refer to how many bits something is?

You know your latest laptop is 64 bits and your last one was 32 bits. You know about the 16 bit retro video games like Sonic the Hedgehog and maybe even the "8 bit era" of the Commodore 64. So what do call that ... bitness?

I've heard it called bitness, and tweeted about it a while ago and got some interesting alternatives:

  • bitness
  • bittage
  • bittitude
  • bitality
  • bitosity
  • bitch
I guess the last one is a little challenging, linguistically. Maybe German?

Of course I had lots of replies to my tweet saying well you're talking about "word length" or "machine architecture" or other term specific to the usage. Well what if I'm talking about sound samples? "Is that a 16 bit sample or a 32 bit one?". Or colour space in digital imagery? Is that 24 bit colour? Ignoring bittitude is just like saying you can't call it footage, you have to call it film length.

We need to agree on a word that covers bitness and I think I'm coming down on the side of bittage.

Of course this is a question of crucial importance to the world (not - but I did warn you).

What do you think?

image credit jeffrey onMr Breakfast