Posts tagged ‘communication’

January 2, 2017

#122) Language court 2017: the D-Theory verdicts on the LSSU 42nd annual list of banished words

on-fleek

(Well, are you?)

New Years Day means different things to different people. For some folks, it’s the first day without alcohol, tobacco or child pornography. For others, it’s the day they have to start remembering to write a new number in the “date” field on their personal checks. For nerds such as the court, by which I mean myself, it’s the release of Lake Superior State University’s eagerly awaited list of words and expressions that are “banished from the Queen’s English for misuse, overuse and general uselessness.” I often find vindication in seeing phrases that annoy the estrogen out of me singled out on these lists (surely I can’t be the only one who wants to sack-tap anyone who says ‘curated’ – from the 2015 list – or ‘break the internet’ from 2016) and I’ve even gone so far as to make my own (after the response I got, I decided it would be better to let LSSU do the dirty work).

In that spirit, I ask that you dock your selfie drone and focus on this historic town hall meeting in the echo chamber as we guesstimate how many of the 831 items on Lake Superior State University’s 42nd annual listicle of banished words are true bete noires and how many are mere simply post-truths.

YOU, SIR

Charges: “Hails from a far more civilized era when duels were the likely outcome of disagreements.”

Verdict: Not guilty. The court has found that while those who use this expression tend to think they are more droll than they actually are, it is not ubiquitous enough to warrant punishment.

FOCUS

Charges: “Overused when concentrate and look at would be fine.”

Verdict: Not guilty. The court finds that when looked at in the context of….ooh, shiny!

BETE NOIRE

Charges: Being a pretentious synonym for “pet peeve.”

Verdict: Not guilty; the prosecution didn’t even seem to care that much about this one. Note: the court apologizes for not being able to figure out how to create the accent circumflex that goes over the first “e” in “bete” in the WordPress platform.

TOWN HALL MEETING

Charges: Being a misnomer (“Candidates seldom debate in town halls anymore.”)

Verdict: Not guilty; given the election cycle we just witnessed, what we call our debates is the least of our problems.

POST-TRUTH

Charges: Being a trendy way of describing how politicians and others have been able to get people to ignore facts.

Verdict: Guilty. Just as Capone’s tax evasion and O.J.’s memorabilia hijinks stood in for more significant crimes, we are happy to set up “post-truth” as a fall guy for all of the other annoying “post-” expressions that inundate pop culture: “post-punk”, “post-hardcore”, “post-Sasha Fierce”, “post-Freddy Got Fingered” et. al.

GUESSTIMATE

Charges: Overuse

Verdict: Not guilty. The court finds that prosecuting this chronic low-level offender will be more trouble than it’s worth.

831

Charges: Shorthand for “I love you” – 8 letters, 3 words, 1 meaning. “Never encrypt or abbreviate one’s  love.”

Verdict: Not guilty. If this one survives until 2018, it will only be from hipsters using it ironically, which may prompt the case to be reopened.

HISTORIC

Charges: Being “thrown around far too much.”

Verdict: Guilty. The court hopes that this verdict serves to inspire those in attendance to avoid hyperbole and find more creative adjectives.

MANICURED

Charges: Overuse

Verdict: Not guilty. The word does have a sort of real-estate-salesman-y feel to it but has not been overused to the point of being divorced from its original meaning.

ECHO CHAMBER

Charges: Overuse

Verdict: Not guilty (for now). Like its accomplice “confirmation bias” this is a reasonably concise way of describing a clearly valid concept.

ON FLEEK

Charges: “Needs to return to its genesis: perfectly groomed eyebrows.”

Verdict: Guilty. The fact that as a society we find eyebrows important enough to nickname is bad enough; worse is that this phrase is already on track to become inescapable and will cause adults to embarrass themselves when using it in the name of hipness, such as Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol.

BIGLY

Charges: Being used by Donald Trump

Verdict: Not guilty. This is the aspect of the pending Trump presidency that we’re going to get upset about?

GHOST

Charges: Being slang for abruptly ending communication, especially on social media

Verdict: Not guilty. Even the prosecution has its doubt: “Is it rejection angst, or is this word really as overused as word-banishment nominators contend?”

DADBOD

Charges: “Empowering dads to pursue a sedentary lifestyle.”

Verdict: Guilty. This word (“the flabby opposite of a chiseled male ideal”) isn’t the one who actually robbed the bank; it was just slower than the ring leader (“dad joke”) in running to escape the word police after the alarm was tripped.

LISTICLE

Charges: A portmanteau of “list” and “article.”

Verdict: Not guilty. The problem is the item itself, not what we call it.

“GET YOUR DANDRUFF UP…”

Charges: Unknown.

Verdict: Not guilty.

SELFIE DRONE

Charges: Breaking new ground in selfies by tasking a drone to enable new angles (“How can this end badly?”)

Verdict: Not guilty. As with “Listicle” there is a difference between a truly annoying, overused expression and simply naming something that shouldn’t exist in the first place.

FRANKENFRUIT

Charges: Being “another food group co-opted by ‘frankenfood’.”

Verdict: Guilty. People have a right to get their dandruff up about genetically modified organisms, but words such as “frankenfruit” that are intended to scare people into ortheorexia nervosa instead might scare some of them straight to McDonald’s.

DISRUPTION

Charges: This classic Van Halen guitar solo is charged with inspiring would-be guitarists at music stores across the country to butcher it while trying out instruments, thus making a…oh, sorry, I thought you said “Eruption.” “Disruption” is charged with “bumping into other over-used synonyms for change.”

Verdict: Not guilty. There can never be enough synonyms for “change.”

As for “that/those/dat ____, tho”, “I’m just going to leave this here” and “[no words]”: consider this a warning.

What say you, sir?

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January 4, 2016

#105) Language court 2016: the D-Theory verdicts on LSSU’s newly banished words

So, it looks like this conversation about manspreading is going to break the internet unless we walk it back to before the stakeholders held their presser.

It’s that time of year when language geeks such as myself peruse the various lists of words and phrases that are nominated for banishment. Though many such lists exist, the one published by Lake Superior State University tends to carry the most weight. Like many people, I have made resolutions to be more productive and make greater contributions to society in 2016 and if running down my own personal verdicts on these words doesn’t contribute to society, then slap my ass and sign me up for the Peace Corps. D-Theory Language Court is now in session, the honorable judge D-Lock presiding.

SO

Charges: Peter Gabriel’s fifth solo record is charged with containing the track “In Your Eyes”, thus making people forget about “Games Without Frontiers” and “Family Snap…” Oh, wait, what’s that? Wrong “So?” My bad. “So” is charged with “…Being overused as the first word in the answer to ANY question.”

Verdict: Guilty.

CONVERSATION

Charges: Being a bland, non-offensive, non-specific alternative to words such as “debate”, “discourse” and “argument.”

Verdict: Guilty. To the above mentioned charges, the court adds, “Making a company look desperate when they ask customers/viewers/readers to ‘join the conversation.'”

PROBLEMATIC

Charges: Being a “corporate-academic weasel word.”

Verdict: Not guilty. It does tend to get overused, but what’s the word that we should use instead? Cunty?

STAKEHOLDER

Charges: Being over-used in business to describe customers and others.

Verdict: Not guilty. Yes, it may be a word that folks simply use to sound smart and important, but the court has not found it to be as ubiquitous as some claim.

PRICE POINT

Charges: Using two words when one will do.

Verdict: Guilty. It has a connotation among those who use it that the product is somehow superior.

SECRET SAUCE

Charges: Being a metaphor for success based on the fast food industry.

Verdict: Guilty. If you brag about something, it’s no longer a secret.

BREAK THE INTERNET

Charges: Being hyperbole about the latest controversy that is already becoming trite.

Verdict: Guilty. The court adds the charge of begetting the equally annoying tendency to force the verb “Win” into situations where it doesn’t belong (“Win the internet”; “Win Yom Kippur.”)

WALK IT BACK

Charges: Being an unnecessary synonym for “Back pedal.”

Verdict: Not guilty. The prosecution has the burden of proof and failed to provide any meaningful evidence.

PRESSER

Charges: Being an unnecessarily trendy term for “Press release” or “Press conference.”

Verdict: Not guilty. The court sees this word as a minor offender which will soon slip from popular use.

MANSPREADING

Charges: Being a term for taking up too much room on a subway or bus.

Verdict: Not guilty. As the LSSU prosecution team itself notes, the term is mainly “familiar to those in bigger cities, where seats on the bus or subway are sometimes difficult to find.” Thus, the term is unlikely to infect those in rural areas or places like Los Angeles where one tends not to use public transportation.

VAPE

Charges: Describing the act of “smoking” E-cigarettes.

Verdict: Not guilty. As long as E-cigarettes exist, some word will be necessary to describe the act of using them. We can let “Vape” serve that purpose until something better comes along.

GIVING ME LIFE

Charges: Being an over-used phrase for “making me laugh.”

Verdict: Guilty. Perhaps it’s not as ubiquitous as “Break the internet”, but it still is overwrought.

PHYSICALITY

Charges: Being over-used by sports broadcasters and writers.

Verdict: Not guilty. When you get tired of broadcasters who talk simply to hear the sound of their own voice, remember that your remote control has a “mute” button.

Those who are curious can check out this blog’s verdicts on the 2015 LSSU list.

What say you?

January 2, 2015

#89) Language court: the D-Theory verdicts on 2015’s Banished Words

I hope your take-away from this hack is that you need to curate the skill set to be a good foodie, Bae.

Every year, Lake Superior State University releases a list of words or expressions that should be “banished from Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.” In keeping with this blog’s ongoing theme of devoting far too much time and energy to trivial issues while ignoring significant ones, I am proud to present the D-Theory Verdicts on each list item from the 2015 list. Court is now in session, the honorable judge D-Lock presiding.

“BAE”

Charges: Used both as shorthand for “Before Anything Else” and as a term of endearment (contraction of “Babe”).

Verdict: Guilty. While the court has not personally found this word to be over-used or annoying, it certainly has the potential to be. The preemptive guilty verdict has numerous precedents, in which the list has accurately predicted the rise of a word’s over-use several years out (see  “____ is the new ____” making the 2008 list.)

“POLAR VORTEX”

Charges: Requiring twice as many syllables as its synonym, “Winter.”

Verdict: Not guilty. This one will run itself out.

“HACK”

Charges: Over-use and misuse.

Verdict: Not guilty. Like “Polar Vortex”, this one has the good fortune of being listed at the peak of its popularity and will likely fade, or at least become less ubiquitous, in ’15 and beyond. Additionally, unintentionally humorous uses of the word (“Marriage hacks”) offset the annoyance it brings.

“SKILL SET”

Charges: Adding an extra word (“set”) that doesn’t change or amplify the first word (“skill”).

Verdict: Not guilty. The prosecution presented a weak argument, proving that while this phrase may be somewhat mundane, attempts to rephrase it usually tend to be awkward.

“SWAG”

Charges: Being a “shapeless, meaningless word…with no real depth.”

Verdict: Not guilty; this one is harmless enough and will probably run its course before long.

“FOODIE”

Charges: Being a synonym of “Everybody.” After all, who doesn’t like to eat?

Verdict: Guilty. While it may once have implied a sort of connoisseurship, nowadays with anyone being able to label themselves a foodie, the term has lost its meaning. (See also: Curate/Curated)

“CURATE/CURATED”

Charges: Being a pretentious synonym for “Collected.”

Verdict: Guilty. The problem is that, unlike, say, “Cra-Cra”, people often use this word without realizing how it makes them sound. As Alex Williams puts it in this article, “Among designers, disc jockeys, club promoters, bloggers and thrift-store owners, curate is code for ‘I have a discerning eye and great taste.’”

“CRA-CRA” (See also: Cray-Cray)

Charges: Self-explanatory.

Verdict: Guilty.

“FRIEND-RAISING”

Charges: “The word suggests that we develop relationships not for the simple value of the person we call ‘friend’…but that we instead develop these relationships out of some sort of expectation of a monetary reward.”

Verdict: Not guilty. The court had to Google this one so it can’t be too ubiquitous. Besides, the court has been on both sides of the friend-raising equation too many times to deny the validity of the concept.

“ENHANCED INTERROGATION”

Charges: Being a “shameful euphemism for torture.”

Verdict: Guilty. Like most attempts to appease, this one won’t make people on either side of the issue happy.

“TAKE-AWAY”

Charges: Over-use.

Verdict: Not guilty. Like “Skill set”, this term may be over-used by people who want to sound trendy, but while there may be different ways to word the concept, are “lesson” and “moral” really any better?

“-NATION”

Charges: Over-use and misuse.

Verdict: Not guilty; not worth getting upset over. When a bunch of sports fans call themselves “(Team name) Nation”, it’s all in good fun. That said, there are certain teams for whom the “Nation” tag has more of a pedigree (Red Sox) and some for which it seems a little out of place (also see: Artichoke Nation.)

What say you?

February 27, 2014

#74) Ten reasons why nobody’s reading your blog (and the fact that it might just kind of suck is #6)

Does having made a little over thousand dollars from blogging qualify me as an expert on the subject?  No?  Didn’t think so.  Oh well, I’ve never let that stop me before.  Here goes.

If you’re reading this, chances are pretty good that you write at least one blog yourself.  According to Brandon Gaille of wpvirtuoso, there are about 152 million blogs in existence – plenty to go around.  There’s also a pretty good chance, unfortunately, that you are not getting the type of traffic you want.  Here’s why.

#1) You do it too infrequently.  In the early stages of a blog, quantity can sometimes be more important than quality.  Getting your content out there – even if you end up revising it later – is important and if you do it consistently, you will start seeing better results sooner.  According to Gaille, blogs that are updated 20 or more times per month receive an average of 5 times as much traffic as those that only post 4 or fewer times per month.  Of course once you establish a base of readers, you don’t want to over saturate them, but cross that bridge when you come to it.

#2) You have too many opinions.  Expunge me!? You might be thinking.  A blogger telling people not to express their opinions on his site where he does nothing BUT express his opinions?  What gives?  I’m not trying to discourage your freedom of speech, but in my experience, information-oriented blogs tend to rank higher in search engines than those centering around the opinions of the author.   Most of my success (and I do use the term loosely) as a blogger has come from www.nobodyhikesinla.com, in which I provide information about hiking trails in the L.A. area.  NHLA typically gets more traffic in a day than this blog gets in a year and I’m OK with that; it comes with the territory.  Your opinions may be well thought out and skilfully articulated, but nobody cares about them, at least not yet.  You yourself probably google search for information/fact oriented items more often than you do others’ opinions on issues.  If you do actively seek out someone’s opinion, it’s likely because they’ve established themselves as a credible source and have probably paid their dues to get to that point.  You have to be a journalist before you can be a columnist.  You have to be a line cook before you can be a chef.  You have to be a bottom before you can be a….never mind, on to #3.

#3) You aren’t reading enough other blogs.  Reading other peoples’ blogs serves two purposes: it can give you ideas for your own blog and by commenting on, following or “liking” someone else’s blog you increase the chances that they may reciprocate.  Of course you don’t want to be too shameless about plugging your own blog, but if you provide thoughtful, encouraging comments on someone else’s work it’s not unreasonable to expect a little kickback.

#4) You haven’t exchanged enough links.  This can be a great you-scratch-my-back type of situation.  Think about it: most blogs you’ve read probably have a list of links to related sites.  (NHLA does.)  This is not only a valuable resource to your readers but if can funnel traffic to other bloggers, who in turn might see fit to throw a bone back to you by including a link to YOUR site on theirs.  Email bloggers who write about similar subject matter and offer to exchange links.  Most bloggers don’t want their site to be too cluttered with links but if your blog hits home with them, they just might include you.

#4.5) You haven’t embedded enough links.  This can be a good one to keep in mind if your attempts to exchange links with other bloggers aren’t successful.  You can always link to their blogs through your actual posts.  According to www.bluecorona.com, “Google ultimately wants its users to find what they are searching, so when you link to other authoritative and relevant websites, you are providing a great service to Google’s users. This makes your website a more valuable resource, in Google’s beautiful, primary-colored eyes.”

#5) You haven’t registered your domain name.  First things first: I realize that since this blog does not have a registered domain name, I’m not practicing what I preach, but I basically just do this blog for the fun of it.  Most serious blogs have a registered domain name.  Doing so through WordPress is cheap and easy; I’d imagine the process isn’t too difficult for other platforms such as Blogger.  Your own domain name makes your site easier to describe at cocktail parties; it fits better on a business card.  It also appeases the beautiful, primary-colored eyes of Google; since most domain names last for at least a year, it shows that you are committed and Google likes commitment.

#5.5) Google also likes boldface.

#6) Your blog might just kind of suck.  No one likes to hear that they have an ugly baby, but sometimes it just needs to be said.  How are your punctuation, grammar and spelling?  Do you read your blog out loud to yourself before you post?  How well thought out and substantiated are your opinions?  I don’t mean to sound like a middle school teacher but if you’re going to expect people to take you seriously, you have to take your work seriously.  Don’t be like the state of California which recently informed a friend of mine that his business address was invalid by sending a letter to his business address.

#7) You haven’t found the right subject matter.  This is easier said than done: it’s a balancing act.  Blog about the Kardashians and you’ll have a lot of competition; blog about Taylor Grey Meyer and your audience may be a little more limited.  Topical subjects might give your traffic a short term bump but not much else.  It takes a while to figure out which topics are the best match between your writing style and your audience (I’ll let you know when I get there myself.)

#8) Excessive monetization attempts.  While there’s no precise rule regarding this, it’s generally understood that the amount of advertising/donation solicitations/product pitches/etc readers will accept on a website is commensurate with the quality of the content on said site.  To put it in English, if readers find your blog to be valuable and enjoyable they won’t mind  if you’re trying to make a buck or two from it; they may even contribute.  If, however, they just get bombarded by ads, they’ll stay clear.  Learn from the rise and fall of Myspace, which as Wesley Verhoeve eloquently put it, “monetized [itself] into oblivion.”

#9) It doesn’t look good on a mobile device.   How does your blog look on an iPhone, iPad or Droid?  Are the pictures formatted correctly?  Are the links visible and easily accessible?  It’s been often said that people have plenty of information and not enough time to absorb it.  Mobile devices allow readers to catch up on their favorite blogs while they’re on the run.  You never know who your readers might be: busy salespeople in between (or during) meetings; customers battling checkout lines at Costco; funeral guests stuck at an endless eulogy.  Hell, according to a recent survey, 12 percent of moms use their phone during sex.

#10) There’s no story.  You probably tell stories on your blog but does the blog itself tell a story?  Does the blog as a whole, as a brand if you will, provide a reason for readers to return?  When Julie Powell started the blog that would eventually become the book and movie “Julie & Julia”, her goal was to cook every recipe in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” within a year.  Would she do it?  You had to read her blog to find out.  My fellow hiking blogger Jeremy Jacobus did a similar thing with his hiking blog–in which he set a goal of hiking a thousand trails in a thousand days.  “Meta” stories such as these can be compelling to a reader and make them want to come back – and tell friends.

That’s all for now – happy blogging and may your traffic be good and plentiful.

texting during sex

August 12, 2012

#45) Learning from an idiot who just might be a genius

If you are reading this and know who Taylor Grey Meyer is, then by definition, she would have to be considered a genius, because just over a week ago, no one had any idea who she was.  If you haven’t heard of Taylor Grey Meyer, read further and decide for yourself.

Sometimes the line between idiocy and genius can be a blurry one, and the story of Taylor Meyer is an example.  After moving to San Diego with hopes of landing a job for the Padres baseball team, she met with one rejection after another.  Even her application for a minimum wage job selling tickets was dismissed with a form letter.

Then, she was presented with an “opportunity”, which basically entailed her spending $495 to go to a job fair at Petco Park.  Taylor Meyer declined, putting forth a different proposition:

“In the spirit of reciprocity, I would like to extend you a counter-offer to suck my dick.  Clearly I don’t have one of these, so my offer makes about as much sense as yours.”

In a week, the email has taken on a life of its own, circulating through offices across America.  I learned about it from an article by blogger Chris Brogan in which he asks, “Would you hire this person?”  Reaction to the email has ranged from the traditional “She’s burned her bridges” school of thought to many comments praising her willingness to shake things up and tell it like it is.

Perhaps Taylor Meyer speaks for many people who are either unemployed, under-employed or miserably employed.  Perhaps in Meyer, those higher up on the corporate ladder see someone who’s not afraid to take chances, who won’t overthink decisions and will lead companies in a bold new direction.  Just as Peter Gibbons, the character from the film “Office Space”, got a promotion by  bucking corporate convention, Taylor Meyer might find herself receiving opportunities that might not have come her way had she played it cool and kept her mouth shut.  The fact is, for better or worse, many more people know who Taylor Meyer is than a week ago.  Having been unemployed for close to a year, and having had to drop out of law school, Meyer undoubtedly felt that she had nothing to lose.

Of course, only time will tell if Meyer’s letter was a good move.  But if only one person answers “yes” to the rhetorical question Chris Brogan posed in his blog, then the letter will have done its job.  And even if no one hires her, that letter still just might be the work of a genius.

 

September 30, 2011

#26) “Hello…VADGE!”

Recently we were talking to a friend of ours who had just gotten into a relationship.  She liked this guy she had started dating, but felt he was a little bit passive in some areas…such as the bedroom.  She would be flirty, she was saying.  Affectionate.  A little bit teasing.  And he didn’t seem to be picking up on the signals.

“Look,” said M., “Sometimes you just need to be direct.”  She pointed just below her waist and said, “Hello…vadge!“*

This line has become somewhat of an ongoing joke with us, but it actually, I’ve found, has some interesting implications beyond its blueness.  I’ve come to adapt this crude nickname for female genitalia to stand for anything good that I have that’s right under my nose but is going unappreciated as I bemoan the things that I don’t have.  (After all, I don’t want to catch myself behaving like Kayla of post #25).  “Hello…vadge!” has become a mantra that reminds me that through all of life’s ups and downs there are things for which to be thankful.  Just as I’ve caught myself asking, “Is that all you got me?” I also catch myself resenting not having the successes and freedom I ultimately desire, but ignoring the world before me, desperately pointing to its undercarriage and saying, “Hello….VADGE!”

Another side of this phrase is how it empowers the one who says it.  There are times in life when you just have to be direct.  Don’t ask, don’t get: that’s how the universe works.   Fortunately for our friend, she did ask, although I’m guessing probably not with the exact phrasing that was suggested.  Did she get?  Let’s just say that we haven’t heard her complain about that aspect of her relationship since then.

*I’ve used the spelling I’ve seen used by Sarah Silverman, Denis Leary and several others.  I’ve always been partial to the shorter “vag”, but I can understand why this spelling is more phonetically user-friendly, rhyming with “badge”, “Madge”, etc.