The build-up to the annual ASHA Convention still maintains a frisson of excitement. Being old and cynical, I typically divide things into one of two groups; “Things-That-Suck” and “Things-That-Don’t-Suck-Quite-As-Bad-As-They-Could.” I appreciate that this may seem a somewhat negative and jaded view of life, but on the upside it means that the soul-crushing feeling of misery that slams down on you when life inevitably throws you yet another curve ball can be dealt with philosophically with a gallic shrug and muttering “C’ést la vie” before you move on to your next disappointment.
So, odd as it may seem, this downbeat opening is intended to whet your appetite  for joining in with the ASHA 2011 Scavenger Hunt during the conference on 17th-19th November. It is, as the blurb tells us, about “going places, doing challenges, and earning points.” And for the Tech Droolers, there’s even the chance of winning an iPad2 – be still your beating heart! Actually, I’d much prefer the Nikon camera or American Express $150 Gift card, which I’d use to buy a new Kindle Fire or put toward a new Cross “Year of the Dragon” red-laquered fountain pen.
You can follow the hunt using either the SCVNGR app available for iPhone or Android, or you can use SMS by texting 728647 to ASHA – although I just tried this and got the following message:
That keyword is either not valid or is tied to a trek that has not yet been activated. Please double-check your keyword and try again later.
So you can’t actually “sign up” yet via SMS and will have to remember to do it on the day. The problem is that I am the sort of guy who forgets and I rather wanted to sign up NOW because of that! Ah well, I’ll set an alarm…
Being cautious (or anal, depending on your choice of perspective) I took a peek at the terms of the contest, just to make sure I wasn’t signing away my first born – something I would have done happily when she was a teenager but that I can’t legally do now without her husband’s permission. These things are, of course, marketing promotions and not just the milk of human kindness, so I’m OK with the following terms;
By entering the Contest, you are opting in to the Contest and agree to accept additional contact from Contest Entities (only)… Entrants may terminate their participation at any time by sending a text message with the word “QUIT”, to short code 728647, which information will be sent to Recipient in the preliminary opt-in notice.
So I’m pretty safe from being cyberstalked in perpetuity by, say, the Geico Gecko who, cute as he may be, would get very annoying if he tweeted me on a daily basis to buy insurance. For the record, Geico folks, I already HAVE insurance from you and I’m quite happy.
What really caught my eye was the use of the word treker and trekers to describe those of us who will be taking part. Why? Because it should be trekker and trekkers with a double “k.” The only reason for using treker or trekers would be if Geico, ASHA, or SCVNGR (the companies running the game) were to use a trademark after the word in order to claim it as a special mark for “people who use the SCVNGR software.”
The word trekker is derived from the Dutch word trek meaning “to travel by ox wagon, and was first used in this sense by Dutch settlers in South Africa back in the early 19th century. Prior to that, trek meant to draw, pull, or march. By the middle of the 19th century, it was common to refer to someone who made a trek as a trekker – not a *treker.
In another example of how morphology can provide us with new words, a small group of trekkers could be referred to as a trekkie, with the final /ɪ / sound acting as a diminutive. Of course, nowadays, the word trekkie refers to something totally different – a devotee of the Star Trek series.
It’s interesting to note  that the derivation of trekkie in this modern sense is, in fact, different from that of the original. The sci-fi trekkie comes from the compound noun Star Trek and the morphological /ɪ / marker is not a diminutive but used in the sense of “one who is a fan of” – much like we describe someone who likes food as a foodie.
I checked the Corpus of Contemporary American English just in case I was hideously wrong (it happens – sometimes) but there are only two examples of treker in evidence, and both are trademarks for a utility vehicle. On the other hand, the word trekker scores a respectable 67 instances (not bad for a low-frequency noun) of which some examples are for another vehicle but also for travelers and Star Trek fans. 
Hopefully the next post will include details of the fabulous prize I’ve won after successfully completing the Scavenger Hunt. It’s every dude for himself on this one, so I don’t have to share with the other guys if I win (“OK, I get the iPad but you have visiting rights every other weekend, and I want app support payments.”) I suppose I should end by recommended you go to the Scavenger Hunt site and sign up – but seeing as that would reduce my odds of winning, I suggest you give it a miss!
 I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before but the existentialist Albert Camus once said, “there is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy. All other questions follow from that.” I’m paraphrasing a little here but the rationale for this is that if, as an existentialist, you believe that life has no meaning, no purpose, and is prone to being messed up by chaos and random events, then there is no difference between being dead or alive. If nothing matters, it makes sense to throw yourself under a bus, shoot yourself through the head, or choose one of an infinite number of ways to end it all. But – and here’s the good news – if you can come terms with the sheer futility of it all AND create some reason to live, no matter how trivial that might be, then you can actually get on with life in the knowledge that however bad things are, it’s better than being dead!
 No, it isn’t “wet your appetite.” The word whet means “sharpen” or “put an edge on,” whereas the word wet means “to make moist with a liquid.” The former comes from Old English hwettan and the latter from Old English wǽten – totally different 🙂 I suppose there’s the temptation to believe that it could be “wet your appetite” based on the notion that drooling makes your mouth wet, but that’s an after-the-fact rationale; an etymythology.
 I know, you’re curious… Trekkie scores 32 examples and all of them are for Star Trek fans, which means that the original meaning has to all intents and purposes been tossed into the historical junk pile. Nothing stays the same; not even words. C’ést la vie.