Imagine my surprise when I was browsing my feeds at Google Reader today to see the word “Pidgin” in my feeds. And in a Lifehacker post, no less! To understand why I would be surprised, you have to remember that I grew up in Papua New Guinea, where a trade language called Neo-Melanesian Pidgin (Tok Pisin in the vernacular) is spoken by roughly 4 million people there. It is commonly referred to as just “pidgin” by people that live in PNG.
In reality, pidgin is a generic linguistic term that refers to a language that develops as a means to facilitate trade in areas where many different languages are spoken by small people groups. Since ~850 languages are spoken in PNG, it makes some sense that a pidgin would be born to facilitate trade and communication. Neo-Melanesian pidgin is based on English and German. One of the defining characteristics of pidgins is that they are typically just a lingua franca, and not spoken as a first language by any people group. Pidgins sometimes develop into creoles, which means that they then become more full-fledged languages, because people learn to speak them as their first (and sometimes only) language. This is the case with Haitian Creole (originally a French Pidgin, now a French Creole).
Anyhow, the Pidgin Lifehacker was talking about is an IM client, much like Trillian. Not quite what I was expecting, but given what a pidgin is, the name is fitting. :-)