Management NewSpeak–Orwell was Right (or “How I learned to speak in tongues at work.”)

Some of my friends consider me to be an anachronism.

In  some ways, they’re correct.  

In many ways, I’m stuck in the sixties.

Some of my mannerisms and behavior from the past  have  carried over into the new century. In fact, that’s one of them—my constant references to the “turn of the century.” It drives my proofreader nuts. He thinks that most people our age (baby boomers) will think of the 1800’s when I say, “…before the turn of the century.”  A topic for another blog.Newspeak-1

I don’t like the new age management jargon…

that has become prevalent in the last ten years. I prefer the old way of talking.

It was clear.

It was direct.

It wasn’t concerned about being politically correct.

[Some of my author friends may encounter this in their dealings with corporate types.]

 

Herewith, then, with tongue firmly planted in cheek,

is my interpretation of some of the more commonly heard newspeak terms and perhaps some comments about them.

Newspeak

reach out= ask   (Isn’t one word better than two?)

Ex. I’m so glad you reached out to me.  Why? Are you

drowning? I just asked a question, I don’t want you to touch me. This evokes memories of  The Four Tops.

going forward= from now on…

With the proper emphasis, this can be either a threat or a reassuring calmative.

best practices= “This is how I want it done,” or, “My way or the

highway, pal!”

dialog(ed)= talk(ed) Keep it simple!

(As in, “We dialoged about that yesterday. Sounds snooty.)

push back= disagreement, balked, whining (makes me think of

circumcision)

stakeholder(s) = employees (They’ve all got something on the line, or, at stake—their jobs.)

champion = responsible party (The person to whom you delegated a task or project.)

team = a time worn reference to a group of employees who doubt “team members” will  receive proper credit when it comes time for their annual performance evals.

takeaway(s) = (I tend to think of turnovers in football and basketball.) Anyway, a takeaway is what you eat with the coffee at a business meeting if you don’t like bagels.

And finally, an example:

Newspeak — “Going forward, assign some champions from your team and if you get any push back on the new best practices, reach out to me and we’ll dialog about it.”

Chip speak — When you show’em tomorrow how it better get done, if you get any complaints, call me and I’ll go up there and kick some asses.

The Professor and the Madman-a book review

When was the last time you used a dictionary to look up a word?

Not online.

A hardbound or paperback book that you hold in your hands and in which you turn real paper pages.

Been a while?

It has for me.

Other than using Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, I keep three books on my desk:

  1. Word Origins and Their Romantic Stories by Wilfred Funk (yes, THE “Funk” of Funk and Wagnalls.)
  2. Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words by J.H. Byrne (a gift from a close friend)
  3. The Book of Hard Words – Read it, See it, Know it, Use it. by David Bramwell

What was the last murder mystery you read?

Would it live up to this description, “…the linguistic detective story of the decade?”  That’s how New York Times Magazine writer, William Safire described, The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester.

Did you ever wonder how, and by whom dictionaries were written?

The Oxford English Dictionary is perhaps the most famous of them all. For many, it is the gold standard. (It certainly is for lexicographers and members of the London Philological Society.) We would have never expected it to have been the product of mad dogs and Americans. Yes, an American madman played a significant role in creating the OED. These days, most Americans would define a madman as one who voted for the OTHER candidate.  Things were a bit different in 1871 London, and the States were still rebounding from their brush with being dis-united.oed

The story involves two protagonists eponymously referred to in the title. In a manner of speaking, there is also a third man–not Orson Welles’ Harry Lime.

Winchester treats readers to a sampling from the OED with a definition at the beginning of each chapter. The Preface is prefaced with the word, “mysterious,” and Chapter One begins with, “murder.”

And murder is where one of the two stories begins.

Dr. W. C. Minor was a battlefield surgeon (a Yankee)  in the War Between the States. As a result of his experiences in the war, he apparently suffered from what we know today as post traumatic stress disorder, a term likely not found in the first edition of the OED. In retrospect, researchers today speculate that his PTSD hastened, or perhaps even was responsible for a posthumous diagnosis of bipolar disorder. His untreated illness referred to in Victorian England as, “madness,” combined with a deep seated racism for the Irish. It eventually led to his choice of victims and the perpetuation of a crime that would result in his availability to volunteer an unlimited amount of his time to the research required to help write a literary masterpiece.

murray

James Murray at work on the OED

 

James Murray was a Scot who, by the time he was thirty, in 1867, had learned twenty-two languages in addition to English. Despite a stellar resume, he was turned down for a much coveted job in a British museum. Eventually, he was chosen by the committee at Oxford to lead the project that would take seventy years  and define over a half million words. The first edition consisted of twelve tombstone-sized volumes.

A rigorous dependence on gathering quotations to illustrate the use of the sense of every single word in the language sets the OED apart from most other dictionaries. The previously mentioned definition of the word, murder, consumes more than two pages in the paperback edition of The Professor and the Madman. It seemed a monumental if not impossible task requiring an unbelievable number of hours which were supplied by volunteers. Who better to volunteer than an incarcerated word savant who was also a prolific reader?

Murray soon became buried under thousands of handwritten notes from Dr. Minor (by far the most prolific contributor) and hundreds of other volunteers. As the timelines of Murray and Minor converge, readers see their denouement as the dictionary is created while developing an appreciation for the men and their relationship. Winchester leaves us with the conclusion of their lives (not a Hollywood ending) and an appreciation for how their collaboration was essential  to the success of the project.

Casual readers will enjoy the story; writers and other word aficionados will feel this book is essential to have in their personal libraries.

Hard Words

The Book of Hard Words – Read it, See it, Know it, Use it. by David Bramwell

It’s hard to remember now, years later, what I was doing.

A series of loud bumps on the front door signaled the arrival of a visitor.

On my way to the door, I noticed through a side window that it was my neighbor’s son.

Dad was waiting several steps back at the sidewalk by the street.

The kid continued to pound on the door and as it began to open, he shouted, “Open up! You gotta buy something!”

The Ernest Hemingway approach to sales.

Simple.41o078qvm8l-_sy344_bo1204203200_

No frills.

Minimalist.

I bought whatever it was he was selling.

A Hemingway detractor, William Faulkner, once complained that Papa “…has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”

In a little over fifty-five years of reading, I’ve been motivated to look up many words in dictionaries while reading. One thing’s for sure, though, I never put down a “page-turner” and interrupted a captivating story to study vocabulary.

On the other hand, learning new words and making an effort to use them has always been of interest. A well-read person should have a deep vocabulary — shouldn’t they?

It stands to reason.

This seemingly worthwhile pursuit has on occasion caused me some grief. In conversation or informal writing, if the listener doesn’t know what you’re talking about, then you have to explain it. The requirement of stopping and explaining word usage takes a lot away from the original intent of the message. It also leaves the impression that you might be a bit “snooty.”

“Don’t come around here using no five dollar words on me!” was a warning I didn’t want to hear very often. It does, now, in retrospect, cause me to wonder, ‘How much is a hard word worth today?”  Hmmm…

Whatever they’re worth, David Bramwell has got 112 for you for just over ten dollars in his book, The Book of Hard Words – Read it, See it, Know it, Use it.

Bramwell makes it easy to learn about the words in his book. An entire page is dedicated to each word complete with illustrations, pronunciation guide, sample usages, etymology and genealogy. The layout includes three sections titled, “Hard,” “Harder,” and of course, “Hardest.” The author acknowledges that this is not intended to be a complete compendium because, for example, one reader may consider a given word as being hard and another would not, from previous experience.  In my own case, it was a pleasant surprise to scan down the list of words and find many with which I was familiar.  Some of them, I use every day.

Back in my direct sales days, when I lived in Louisiana, it was advisable to write marketing pieces and especially letters on an eighth grade reading level. That was thirty years ago. It would not surprise me at all to discover that writing for any demographic today would benefit with that same advice. An author friend of mine received the following comment in a review of one of his books: “Only 7 percent of the population is going to understand several of the words the author uses.” In my own case, I would be thrilled if seven percent of the population owned a copy of one of my books, but is that what an author wants to do in attempts to sell more books?  I don’t think Hemingway had that problem, but I’m certain that Faulkner did.

Authors who have a word that might be considered difficult by some can take inspiration from the late William Safire, New York Times wordsmith-in-residence. In several of his books, he would use the device of having a character use a “hard” word in conversation. During that conversation, he or she would discuss that word and how it had been used. Another viable option for today’s writers — write a blog about it.

That would be mellifluous!

PBS to rebroadcast “More Than One Vote”

Care about the Future? Don’t Miss “More than One Vote” on PBS

(A review written by Bob Etier)
A deeply thought-provoking examination of the state of education in America and its impact on  politics, More than One Vote debuts this week on public television stations (see local listings for day and time). In an era when voters—and citizens eligible

voting-booth

I remember voting booths like this one from the 60’s and 70’s.

to vote who can’t be bothered—question the value of their votes and resent their exclusion from the processes of government “by the people,” More than One Vote examines Americans’ attitudes about self-governing and their familiarity with how government works.
According to More than One Vote, “A better educated and informed electorate will demand a more  responsible government.” The program explores the work and ideals of individuals and institutions developing programs to teach how government works; classes in Civics, American History, and Free Enterprise for school-aged students; activities including essay and poster contests; and programs that encourage voters to be better informed.
In addition to fostering education, an advocacy program is being designed, aimed to develop non-biased congressional watch groups, monitor congressional attendance and voting records, establish educational oversight groups, and  conduct government efficiency studies. Skeptics, such as this reviewer, may wonder if such an expansive project is too ambitious to succeed, but will secretly cross their fingers and hope this initiative will have a positive impact on American politics and society.
Participating in More than One Vote, are journalists, educators, activists, and representatives of organizations dedicated to improving education, social issues, government, and politics. Also interviewed are notables such as Henry Kissinger, Benita Bogart, Danny Glover, Lise Egstrom, Julian F. Thibaut,and Rupert Murdoch.

__________________________________________

PresidentsClub-new covr 2-8-15 NOTE:
This review appeared first as an appendix in The Presidents Club, by FCEtier.

More Than One Vote and this related review are works of fiction. Names, characters, corporations, institutions, and organizations mentioned are the product of the author’s imagination, or, if real, are used fictitiously without any intent to describe their actual conduct. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or events is entirely coincidental.

Leon Redbone Tribute

Anytime you’re feeling lonely

Anytime you’re feeling blue

Anytime you feel down hearted…

That’s the time to dial up Leon Redbone on YouTube.

A few minutes in the time warp of this anachronistic nostalgia and you’ll be smiling for hours.

wleon-1

From my pictorial salute to Mr. Redbone.

 

When it comes to Leon Redbone himself,

There’s a great big mystery

It sure has worried me

And, it’s not diddy wah diddy (which was a popular cover of Redbone’s.)

Urban legends took on a life of their own with claims that he was Frank Zappa or Andy Kaufman–until he outlived them both.

 

I first saw Leon Redbone asking about diddy wah diddy on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson back in the Eighties. The “great big mystery” for most of us is who is this guy, where did he come from, and how does an artist with few (if any) charted recordings become so popular?

 

The voice, attire, style, demeanor, and repertoire combined to get my attention. The more I heard and saw, the more interested I became in this unique entertainer, whom I hear has now retired due to health reasons.

wleon-2

From my pictorial salute to Mr. Redbone.

Since posting my pictorial tribute on Facebook, several friends have reported new interest among their friends as they shared the photos on their pages. Regardless of the source of interest, or whose mouth spreads the word, it seems like Mr. Leon Redbone will continue to acquire new fans even in his retirement.

 

 

 

The First Anniversary

Bistro Port-brite4-10-15-Charlotte

We met with the lead doctor of the transplant team.

He said, “Come back in July and we’ll get her on the waiting list for a liver.”

One year ago today, my wife had exactly seventeen days to live.

No one expected such a timeline.

We received the news in February she needed a liver transplant.

My attention was focused on how our lives would change and what it might be like after the surgery. I had made plans to retire so I could take care of her.

It never occurred to me she wouldn’t make it to the surgery.

Monday, 4-20-15

Bob’s doctor admitted her to the hospital for fluids and tube feeding. Gastric problems had made it impossible for her to gain much needed weight to prepare for the transplant. A feeding tube would bypass the stomach and avoid problems.After four days, it appeared as though the plan was working. She had gained a few pounds and lab values looked good.

Saturday, 4-25-15

X-rays to check on the placement of the feeding tube revealed the presence of double pneumonia.

Bob and I have a mutual friend we both admire and love. Miriam Goldberg has a hobby of watching the news for celebrity deaths. Anytime a celebrity dies, she knows the story. Every time we would ask her something like, “What happened to Merle Haggard? How did he die?”  Miriam would reply, “His heart stopped beating.”

4-27 calendarMonday, 4-27-15 at 4:37 P.M. Bob’s heart stopped beating.
Seventeen days from today, family members will be in town to join me in observing the first anniversary of Bob’s death.

It will be a special day for us all. Not because she died, but because she lived, our lives will never be the same again.What a blessing.

I’m at peace.

 

 

Goodbye

In English literature class, we were taught a pun is a “play on words.” Officially, according to Merriam-Webster, it’s “the usually humorous use of a word in such a way as to suggest two or more of its meanings or the meaning of another word similar in sound.” The degree of humor varies with the listener. Often times, puns are greeted with groans and a roll of the eyes.

My late wife and I loved puns and often discussed several potential puns as subjects of photography. Some readers may not be familiar with a 1967 hit by the Rolling Stones, the subject of several of our conversations and this photo:

Ruby Tuesday

 

In November 2009, the New York Times reported, “[Ruby Tuesday founder, Sandy Beall] was never much of a Rolling Stones fan; the name for his restaurant was suggested by one of several fraternity brothers who were co-investors.” Obviously, his frat brothers were fans of the Stones. I was (still am.) The first time I heard the name of the restaurant, the Stones’ song came to mind as fast as you can say, Jack Robinson.

The photo above was taken by a Ruby Tuesday associate in the Orlando airport. I was returning home from a four day golf outing with Mickey Mouse et al. The trip was planned months ago as an element of my grief recovery. The loss of my spouse was devastating. The solo trip was healing.

I studied the photo closely and have come to realize something I wasn’t conscious of during the shoot. Once the woman had agreed to take the photo and we had the setup arranged, I got into character. Notice my left heel is lifted a bit, my arm extended, my head tilted back a bit as though I’m straining to see someone in the crowd inside the restaurant. A slight blur in my fingers shows movement in the wave. The carry-on bag shows I’m traveling.

In addition to the obvious pun, I’m waving goodbye to my past.

A constant struggle for me in dealing with her death has been to live in the present while honoring many great memories.

This photo proves to me I’m there.

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