I love word mash ups. One of the best in recent memory is the explanabrag. I don’t know if the word was coined on the TV show Community, but that is where I heard it first. Along with complisult. I love the way blended words can so precisely skewer a behavior or state of being. Sometimes.

Not all mashups are as memorable or worthy as explanabrag. Some have become so common its easy to forget they were created (motel, chortle, bodacious, cyborg, fauxhawk, carjack) others you can only wish they will disappear from usage. I vote for brony & twerk but that’s just me.

I was in a meeting the other day and as it was wrapping one of the women said she had a request to make. She went on to a lengthy explanation of the very important and highly dangerous work that her very accomplished and smart son-in-law is doing internationally. And then she asked that we all keep him in our prayers.

Having just finished teaching a workshop on networking and self-promotion, I filed away this technique for future reference.

I have no real beef with this woman being proud and wanting to brag about her son-in-law, but the fact that she did it under the pretext of asking for “prayers and thoughts” made me want a new word to describe it. Explana-prayer? Requetsa-brag? Braga-quest? Suggestions welcome.

I find this woman endlessly entertaining in a tiring sort of way. She is elderly, southern and in the habit of saying things like “Bless her heart, she just doesn’t have a clue about what she’s doing.” I think that fits tidily into the category of a “blessisult” but something else may have already been coined that I haven’t heard yet.

My favorite song about words.

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I’ve never understood the point of that trust exercise where you fall backward and let folks catch you. In my mind its a given that the people in the circle will catch you because its a set up – who is going to risk looking like a schmuck in front of everyone standing around to participate in this exercise? Therefore, the real purpose of the exercise is to show whoever paid for the “team building” that you and your co-workers will play by the rules when someone is looking. Continue reading

Couples and families often have in jokes & catch phrases that turn into short hand too obscure for outsiders even when explained. Lemon difficult is one between me and my husband.

Long ago my friends and I worked to get our hipster cred by slogging through lots of lousy sketches on Saturday Night Live to get the one insider gem that would be all anyone could talk about the following week. Now I pay $7.99 a month for Hulu on Roku so I get the best bits vetted and watch them on my phone over lunch. I digress. Or not.

A while back we saw the most tense, disturbing, political movie I’ve ever watched called “In The Loop”. Beside the fact that it should have been named “Capaldi Live: Cursing as Art Form”, I thought I was going to pass out because I kept holding my breath. There was one deeply funny moment however, that made me laugh until I cried. I still have a hard time repeating the words without cracking up. An idiotic politician tells his staffer to do a profoundly impossible thing at a UN meeting in the middle of a situation that is beyond crisis. He blithely says it will be “Easy peasy, lemon squeezy” and the staffer hisses at him “No it wont, it will be difficult, difficult lemon difficult.”

Things that are currently “Lemon Difficult”:

  • Recommitting to the house we live in. Because, in anticipation of a pending move that was subsequently canceled, many hundreds of books are boxed up. Which makes this the perfect time to paint, rearrange, re-purpose rooms, areas, furniture etc., also known as “The Great Cascade of Work”.
  • Trying to determine the criteria for the project management for “The Great Cascade of Work”. Possibilities include: what do I /we need out of boxes, what room is most annoying to have in chaos, what would be the easiest project to accomplish, what would be the fastest project to accomplish.
  • Writing my annual performance review and objectives. Just this side of torture, this chore takes an inordinate amount of my time because it is all self-assessment which I absolutely suck at.  Hey maybe I will make that Objective II: Suck less at self-assessment. I wish I could do a Survey Monkey with a 5 point Likert Scale…
  • The pending homework for my certification. I am being such a slacker lately what with all the paralyzed staring at walls that I am a bit behind. Where to start.
  • The pending paper that I have not been writing for two solid months (see wall staring above)

The law of Amanda writing would indicate that since I am writing about it, Lemon Difficult must be on its way out. Had the impulse here to launch into a discussion on law v. theory but I really do need to read a few more articles today.

I think I will spend some time this weekend making a Meyer Lemon simple syrup for a Lemon Difficult Cocktail. Much more satisfying than lemonade don’t you think?

Digging through the CD case that was tucked in the door of the car the other day my daughter found a CD from when she was small. It was a “mix tape” made as a gift for her by her dad’s friend who has a child a few years younger than her. It was equal parts corny and delightful to listen (and sing along to) to songs we forgot about as she moved on to her own musical choices. Not to mention Pandora and iPod genius mixes.

She has always had eclectic tastes in music, probably because her father made her CD’s with music ranging from punk/rock/jazz and everything in between. Joe Strummer, The Specials and Squeeze were early favorites, which meant we were spared the cruelty of Barney, The Wiggles and Disney Radio.

The “La La La La” song by Barenaked Ladies was one of the songs on the “Joey Mix CD” that we listened to the other night. It does “unexpected” things with the letter “L” like singing about linoleum rather than lullaby’s. This popped in my head today as I was reading an essay on language by Joshua Foer in the New Yorker (you can read it here). The thing that hooked me, and made me start humming the lemon song, was the premise that language could (or should) be “cured” of its inherent flaws so that communication would be logical, efficient and precise.

As someone who spends a lot of time talking (and writing) I can’t say precision has ever been my uppermost goal. Maybe it is a symptom of the language, but my drive is to usually word choice that creates feeling. Data is never as powerful as metaphor or story – no matter what our mouths keep saying – our brains know better.

Communication by language is so much more than just the words. I understand the desire for precision for certain topics, philosophers are notoriously obsessed with describing reality with precise, neutral language, but that’s what I thought Latin was for. Language conveys history and values along with ideas. Imperfect slices of the evolution of a society, the adoption of “accepted” knowledge and advances in science, are all reflected in language, dialect and common usage.

Its a fascinating topic, thinking about the purpose of language. Linguistics in general, semantics in particular. I didn’t realize before how attached I am to my language evoking feeling and connection. I think of myself as fairly logical, but I guess the swirly, word soup in my head is closer to the whimsy & charm side of the scale than the precision & efficiency end.  I think in the work I do the emotional connection (forged by words, anecdote, metaphor) is actually what greases the neural pathway to allow new behavior. It’s all self-motivation of course, but the language is a trigger.

Much to think about. Including how children’s songs about lemons fit into our conception of the purpose of language.

CODA:
I neglected to click “publish” after proofing this post yesterday because I needed to take my daughter to her school spelling bee. Which she subsequently won. As much as I like writing I can’t spell to save my life so I take no genetic credit for her spelling skill. Her father and I are very proud of her accomplishment.

Yesterday as I slogged through endless emails I had an idea for a new App – The BizMail Translator.

It could be embedded at the bottom of web pages as a service like a URL shortener. It would have to be a smart app to constantly adjust to changing management speak and would probably have to be a Wiki so contributors could help us stay on top of paradigm-shifting communication advances in the field of organizational management.

Examples of translations:

  • “Sorry for the confusion…” >>> “Next time read the damn email before you reply…”
  • “Thanks for understanding…” >>> “Tough luck Chuck!”
  • “To follow up on our telephone conversation…” >>> “You cover your ass, I’ll cover mine.”
  •  “You mentioned you didn’t get this email…” >>> “Since you’re not in the loop…”
  • “Just a reminder about the meeting…” >>> “Since you never freakin’ answer…”
  • “I appreciate your attention to this matter…” >>> “NOW! I need this NOW! Five minutes ago!”
  • “I hope I captured the tenor of our conversation…” >>> (see cover your ass above)

Additional examples welcome.

Best regards,
–Amandatoryrant

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