Could should always be an option when it comes to decision making

Monday, 8 September, 2014

From the office of infinite possibilities, an alternative problem solving method… when a decision looms, instead of asking yourself what you should do, ask instead what you could do.

Asking yourself, for example, “What should I do with my life?” tacitly implies that there’s a right and a wrong answer to that question. It seems that the word should can cause us to think in black and white, while could reveals the in-between shades of gray.

Now where was this pearl of wisdom when I needed it the most?

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The future lies in front of us doesn’t it, or is it actually behind us?

Thursday, 28 August, 2014

When we think of the future, many of us see it as being ahead, or in front, of us. When it comes to the past, what’s behind. But not everyone visualises the future or past in those ways, and the language we speak may play a part in our perceptions in this regard. Many Moroccan Arabic speakers for example think of the future as being behind them, and the past in front.

This test confirmed that, despite speaking of the future as being in front of them, the majority of Moroccan Arabic speakers think of it as being behind. Around 85 per cent of them located tomorrow’s object behind the person in the diagram, compared with just over 10 per cent of the Spanish speakers. De la Fuente’s group think the reason has to do with temporal focus. Their theory – “the temporal-focus hypothesis” – is that people and cultures who focus more on the past tend to locate it in front.

It’s an interesting way to look at how we move through time, as if we have our backs to the future, as we move forward, meaning the future is indeed behind us, and the past is before our eyes, hence in front of us, even if we are moving away from it.

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OMG, we don’t curse in public like we used to

Tuesday, 26 August, 2014

I’ve tended to regard the phrase “Oh My God” as more an expression of shock or surprise than as an expletive, but apparently as a cuss-term it is more popular – among women anyway – than a certain word that starts with the sixth letter of the alphabet. Men however still favour that word over any other profanity.

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How is it that our typos can often evade us?

Tuesday, 19 August, 2014

From time to time, while looking back on older posts here, I find myself cringing when I find a typo, be it a missed word, or a spelling mistake. And all the more so when the faux pas was made years ago…

I’m left wondering how such errors could have slipped by, given I write everything in a word processor that spell checks, and then copy and paste the article into a web browser that likewise spell checks, usually a day or so later. I’ve long figured that not looking at a piece of writing for a time makes typos easier to spot later on.

So much for that proof reading technique then. Well, not really. Part of the problem in error checking comes about, it seems, from a conflict with what our eyes see, compared to what we think we should see:

When we’re proof reading our own work, we know the meaning we want to convey. Because we expect that meaning to be there, it’s easier for us to miss when parts (or all) of it are absent. The reason we don’t see our own typos is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads.

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Can gender be discerned by analysing vocabulary?

Thursday, 26 June, 2014

Men and women have distinct preferences for certain words it seems, and knowing who is more likely to use a particular word may be useful in determining the gender of a person – who you know little of – that you may be interacting with online.

Well, up until now that is. Someone wishing to be evasive in this regard may find this information of assistance…

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The Oxford comma, used by me, myself, and I, but should you use it?

Thursday, 12 June, 2014

I didn’t study, or should I say, read, at Oxford University, but I’ve been using their comma, also known as the Harvard, or Serial comma, since my high school days.

English language linguists, editors, and writers, meantime have been in disagreement over its application since day one. So to use, or not to use? Arika Okrent, writing for Mental Floss, offers arguments for and against, to help you decide…

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Forget peeling bananas, you may be using the wrong dictionary

Tuesday, 10 June, 2014

We know we’ve been eating apples the wrong way, and not peeling bananas correctly… you’ve probably spotted some of the dozens of videos and articles floating around in recent months gently breaking the news that you’ve not been doing something fairly basic, something you otherwise give no thought to, properly.

Well, hey hey, my my.

Here’s something I can for go though, it seems we’ve been using the wrong dictionaries all this time, or so says James Somers, who thinks many lexicons in use today leave a lot to be desired:

Worse, the words themselves take on the character of their definitions: they are likewise reduced. A delightful word like “fustian” – delightful because of what it means, because of the way it looks and sounds, because it is unusual in regular speech but not so effete as to be unusable, is described, efficiently, as “pompous or pretentious speech or writing.” Not only is this definition (as we’ll see in a minute) simplistic and basically wrong, it’s just not in the same class, English-wise, as “fustian.” The language is tin-eared and uninspired. It’s criminal: This is the place where all the words live and the writing’s no good.

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Sorry, rolling sarcophagus is not an option

Thursday, 29 May, 2014

Sure, we shouldn’t be trying to overly accentuate the negative, but you just might find yourself in hot water as an employee of General Motors (GM), if it is found you’ve been using words such as bad, defective, failed, flawed, gruesome, horrific, mangling, never, and, wait for it, rolling sarcophagus, in official correspondences.

They are among sixty-nine words and terms some staff of the motor vehicle manufacturer have been told to avoid. Alternatives are, however, offered. For instance, rather than saying “defect”, it is suggested the phrase “does not perform to design” be used instead.

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I made a movie and all I got was its title added to the dictionary

Monday, 26 May, 2014

Hashtag, crowdfunding, and steampunk, are among one hundred and fifty new words that US dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster will add to this year’s edition of its Collegiate Dictionary.

Also joining the rank of neologisms is “catfish”, a term that found its way into the vernacular by way of Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s 2010 documentary of the same name.

catfish (n., new sense): a person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes.

Having a word, based on the title of a film that you made, added to a dictionary has to be just as good as winning an Oscar wouldn’t you think?

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Office speak, the language of an industry

Friday, 2 May, 2014

I think the few times I use any sort of corporate, or office buzzwords, is solely for parody purposes. While never a big fan, I think I made a determined effort to eliminate the few I was using after hearing of a company that referred to people as “resources”.

I don’t think anyone thought twice about the way they spoke either. One or two higher-ups had introduced its usage, and the next minute conversations were peppered with comments such as “well we need a resource to deal with that issue”, or some such.

Over time, different industries have developed their own tribal vocabularies. Some of today’s most popular buzzwords were created by academics who believed that work should satisfy one’s soul; others were coined by consultants who sold the idea that happy workers are effective workers. The Wall Street lingo of the 1980s all comes back to “the bottom line,” while the techie terms of today suggest that humans are creative computers, whose work is measured in “capacity” and “bandwidth.” Corporate jargon may seem meaningless to the extent that it’s best described as “bullshit,” but it actually reveals a lot about how workers think about their lives.

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