i18n may be a mystery to you. It was to me for a long time. I kept trying to vocalize it “eye-late-in” and I figured it was some elite hacker talk for something cool and subversive. Of course, in reality, the context I encountered the word never bore that out, but I still figured it had to be even more so since clearly it was a word coined by the hacker ethos. Then I read this. It is hacker speak, of course. But it just means “internationalization” [of a program]. For those of you to whom this means nothing, just think of how one and the same program can be used by speakers of disparate languages. There aren’t programmers for each language, rather, typically, there is a configuration file with all the text within the program that the user will see and equivalent versions are made in the supported languages. This is an example of i18n.
But, more generally, i18n, the word itself, is an example of something else. The story goes, all those early pioneers were sick of writing “Internationalization” of dry erase boards and chalkboards. So, basically, they took the 20 letter word, kept the first and last letters, and truncated the middle 18 letters to “18”.
That was a good idea.
What interests me even more is the cognitive processes that underlie and idea like that.