DEFAULT [dih-FAWLT]: absence or lack of


Well, this is one that I went to because I was confused.   I was pretty sure I knew what it meant to default on a loan, a promise,or another form of obligation.   Default means that you just didn’t keep up your end of the bargain.

We have heard the term used in government circles a lot over the past few years.   Almost annually, for instance, the Congress has had to consider whether the U.S.  was going to go into default because they (the Congress) couldn’t come to some agreement over budgets and obligations.   It is a symptom of the current Congress which is stuck.   The default is a threat by some members of Congress, that if they don’t get what they want they will refuse to renew the obligations they have already undertaken.  That’s kind of like ordering a meal in a restaurant, eating it, and then leaving without paying for it.

Or then, there is the whole Greek economic issue, in which a once-prosperous nation has frittered away its resources and is incapable of meeting its obligations.   They default on their promises, causing an international economic crisis.

But of recent I have come across the term default as it relates to computer technology.  As you know by now, I am limited in my ability to both comprehend and function when it comes to anything unusual in the way of computer technology.

I keep running across the word default, and it’s clear to me that it doesn’t mean the same thing as I have described above.  To the contrary, it means going to the place where you usually go when operating in this region.  That is to say, default is your “fall-back” function to which  you escape when you are faced with a particular problem or issue.  The World English Dictionary puts it this way:

Default is “the preset selection of an option offered by a system, which will always be followed except when explicitly altered.

I get it.  When I begin to write a post on this blog I create a locale which is called “Add New Post<The Penultimate Word.”  It shows up on the bar at the top of my computer screen.  Whenever I stray from writing to add a graphic, insert a link, or something else along that line, it is necessary for me to go back to my default…”Add New Post, etc.”…  in order to continue writing.   That’s a simplistic example, but it works in terms of making the point.

It occurs to me that using this computer-led definition is helpful in other ways.

When a person needs to clear [her] head it is helpful to go to her default location (maybe her room, her office, her favorite quiet place) in order to re-calculate and re-set direction.

When a writer gets “writer’s block” the best thing to do is to put the laptop  away and go to default…which for writers is to read.

Should a couple find themselves distancing from each other their default action may be counseling…or maybe a trip away from familiar and complicated spaces.

I think you get the idea.   I somewhat like this variation on a word that has been familiar and useful, and is now even more useful with more than one meaning.


Photo Credit:  CNN

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