Colloquial BIM

Back in December 2014, I wrote a blog post on Speaking ARCHICAD, Speaking BIM and Miscommunication and there were some additional thoughts that didn’t quite fit in the original article. So in lieu of writing an article comparing Revit 2016 vs ARCHICAD 19 (I think we might be done with that sort of talk), here’s some thoughts on why direct comparisons often fall flat.

Proprietary and Colloquial BIM

Some proprietary terms become so over used that they become generic. Kleenex is a great example. In the USA that word is the generic catch all for facial tissue. Kleenex has become a generic trademark and you’ll get weird looks if you ask for a facial tissue. Everyone asks for a Kleenex (or maybe a tissue), but everybody knows that you don’t care whether it’s actually a Kleenex or some store brand tissue.

Some proprietary terms become just regular words without any connection maintained to the original. If you know the word moxie, it’s probably in reference to someone who has courage and energy. But odds are you don’t know that moxie comes from the name brand of a soda, Moxie, that’s been sold since 1884. If someone from New England (like me) says someone has Moxie, they might actually mean that person literally has some kick ass soda that some people love (like me), others find disgusting (like my wife), and most people have never heard of.

Some proprietary terms are colloquially generic. I spent a number of years in the southern part of the USA. In many places down south if you ask for a coke at a restaurant, the waiter or waitress will then ask you what kind, and you might say “Pepsi, Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Surge, Moxie, etc.” To most of us Coke is a word we say to mean Coca Cola, but for some regions of the USA it is just a term for any soda.

Coke vs not cokeThe next time you are having a conversation about BIM, ARCHICAD, or really anything related to architecture, think about the words you are using. Are you using proprietary terms, colloquial terms, or clear language that everyone understands? And if you are using special words, is that making it harder for your collaborators, friends, and colleagues to do their jobs?

Not an opening to start an argument

There was a discussion a while back on LinkedIn where someone commented that it’d be great to see a giant list which showed the analogous terminology between ARCHICAD and Revit. A light hearted response went something like this:

That list would be super short! It’d just be:
Command in ARCHICAD = Revit can’t do that
Command in ARCHICAD = Revit can’t do that
Command in ARCHICAD = Revit can’t do that

Okay so we all know that’s not true. And I’m sure the Revit crowd could just swap program names and make the same joke. For fairness, here you go:

That list would be super short! It’d just be:
Command in Revit = ARCHICAD can’t do that
Command in Revit = ARCHICAD can’t do that
Command in Revit = ARCHICAD can’t do that

But there is a grain of truth to the joke because while those programs have similar goals, they achieve them in different ways. And as we all know treating ARCHICAD like Revit or vice versa is a recipe for disaster. One reason is because there are often no directly translatable tools and terms. Sure there are some that are probably so close that they are the same, but it’s not 100%. A list of command/tool equivalents would probably confuse as much as clarify. It would be full of so many caveats.

When talking BIM, it’s important to remember to focus on common terms and language, and understand that the peculiarities of program A don’t necessary matter to program B. And that those things might not actually be BIM, just some things users of that program have to deal with, for ill or good. The Object vs Family comparison is probably the most prominent and best example of two aspects of these programs that are almost the same but probably not at all. For that discussion, check out these two awesome guest posts from a while back:

If you enjoyed this article, make sure to read the original as well: Speaking ARCHICAD, Speaking BIM and Miscommunication.

If you are interested in all the ways that people use different terms but (generally) mean the same thing, there’s no better place to go than the NC State Dialect Survey Maps.

Whether we are talking about BIM, ARCHICAD, Revit, or who gets to use the term architect, I think the words we use matter. Subscribe to my blog to read more about the tricky world of being an Architect in the 21st century: Shoegnome on FacebookTwitter, and the RSS feed.


  1. Jason Smith May 15, 2015
    • Jared Banks May 15, 2015
  2. Pingback: Speaking ARCHICAD October 17, 2016

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