Just the other day it hit me. William Shakespeare could have really used a personal computer.

After all, here was a man who, with nothing more than a quill, wrote at least 37 plays during his professional lifetime--an average of two a year, all of them winners--and whose poetry, 400 years later, still moves lovers, young and old alike.

At the same time, mind you, Bill was running an acting company and making shrewd investments with his income, like buying real estate back in Stratford-on-Avon and helping to finance the successful Globe Theatre in London.

Imagine what he could have done with a word processor and VisiCalc!

While pondering the ramifications for Shakespeare's fame and fortune, it suddenly dawned on me that someone out there was determined to undermine one of the foundations of our civilization. I did a quick survey--and was stunned to discover that, already, much damage has been done.

At stake is the English language.

Consider the felicitous phrase "word processing" and try to use it in a sentence mentioning Shakespeare. What kind of soliloquies do you think the Bard would have written for Hamlet if he had been given to "processing" words? Frankly, about the only thing that can be said about "word processing" is that it is evocative of what Kraft does to Cheez Whiz.

I'm sorry to report that that is just the beginning. Take, for instance, the word "menu."

Until I bought a personal computer, I had been under the impression that menus lived out their dog-eared lives in restaurants. So, I am happy to report, did my Webster's New World Dictionary. Alas, in the world of computers a menu takes on less culinary overtones--here it means the list of options that sometimes appears on computer terminal screens when more instructions are needed. hy not call that list "options," you might well wonder. This bizarre use of words not only confuses ordinary people like me but can intimidate us so much that we end up convinced we haven't the necessary gray matter ever to understand computers.

Perhaps the best example of all the misleading jargon is the word "computer" itself.

In fact, computing in the real sense of the word ("to calculate," says Webster's) is only a small part of what computers really do. Most of the time they're busy organizing and sorting information and then presenting it to the user in a manageable form.

Yet, because of the use of the word "computer," some people are convinced that highbrow math is the wizard responsible for all the magic, and since math scares a lot of people, they begin their venture into computing with a serious lack of confidence. If they begin it at all.

There are other words and phrases that offend me, like "user friendly" (a description of a computer program that is designed to be easily operated by ordinary Joes), and "boot" (a verb meaning to insert, almost exclusively used to describe the act of inserting a disc into a disc drive).

As time goes by, I'll try to acquaint you with more. And I'll also try not to throw too much undefined jargon at you, because your Webster's isn't likely to help you.