Saturday, March 19, 2011

History: Fonzarelli Fix

The reasoning behind the title Fonzarelli Fix is actually quite simple. It refers to an activity engaged in by The Fonz, of Happy Days Fame. On occasion he would repair a malfunctioning jukebox by whacking it. As titles go, it's not an especially bad one. Granted, you have to know who the Fonz is for it to make any sense, but there's only so many ways a person can fix things, so it's not too difficult to parse the term "Fonzarelli" as meaning "involves random violence".

There was just one problem. It turned out that there was another term in common use by the name of Percussive Maintenance which referred to the exact same practice, but which had been existence for quite some time longer than Fonzarelli Fix, a title which had been made up for the purposes of TV Tropes.

The rationale of the decision to ultimately replace the title Fonzarelli Fix with Percussive Maintenance was pretty straightforward- preexisting terms, particularly terms not named after random fictional characters, always receive title precedence over terms developed by TV Tropes. What made this debate an odd stop-gap in the history of repair protocol is the fact that for about half the debate, no one thought to mention the fact that Percussive Maintenance was a preexisting term. Once someone did mention this, much of the remaining debate was spent arguing over whether it was actually in common usage or just some weird jargon invented by engineers.

This was a notion that was rather difficult to prove one way or another. Obviously, most of the tropers in the trope rename forum at this time had not heard of this term before- a population that included myself. At the same time, the random tropers who just so happen to frequent the trope rename forum aren't even a valid cross-section of the wiki, let alone the entire potential TV Tropes audience. I sought to find some objective manner of determining how widely spread usage of either term was, and so in trying to solve the conundrum of this specific title proposal, an odd precedent was developed- the Google search.

By running Google searches of both terms, some interesting facts were determined. First, Fonzarelli Fix and Percussive Maintenance  had about the same number of Google hits. But (and this is the important part), if we instructed Google to instead look for specific phrases (either "Fonzarelli Fix" or "Percussive Maintenance" used one after the other), Percussive Maintenance was far more common- as it turned out, most hits for Percussive Maintenance actually referred to the practice of fixing things by whacking them, whereas most Fonzarelli Fix hits either directly referenced TV Tropes or were referring to Italian plumbers.

But even with this established, the argument still continued. Supporters of Fonzarelli Fix insisted that the term held special TV Tropes flavor which Percussive Maintenance could never equal, even in spite of its wider usage. The argument wasn't necessarily a bad one- before Percussive Maintenance had been outed as a preexisting term I had argued against its being a replacement for the simple reason that it doesn't really sound like a term about fixing things by whacking them. "Percussive" and "Maintenance" are seem like long, technical words for a trope about behavior that's generally seen as lower-class.

In spite of these misgivings, I ended up renaming the trope anyway. From way back in the YKTTW days, it had been agreed that we should not keep trope titles just for the sake of "TV Tropes Tradition". There had to be some tangible, qualitative reason why the old title was superior, and in this case it could not be proved that Fonzarelli Fix was even as popular as Percussive Maintenance, let alone so popular that we could ignore a preexisting term. The better argument won, and so it had to be honored- I believed then, as I believe now, that consistency is an essential aspect of wiki maintenance.

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