The Value of Words

Miscellaneous musings on our culture’s spoken and written language.

Meaningless Words

Facebook invited us to toss words into the dust bin when they created those cute little emoticons or emojis. Now, let me say from the get-go that I use those cute little emojis. I am a user. But what do they really mean? Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, and Angry. The words—and underlying concepts—are virtually meaningless.

Hang onto your britches and let me explain. FB invites us to express supposed emotions with a single symbol, to save us the time and mental effort involved in using vocabulary to formulate sentences to express thoughtful replies. No need to do that when we can express displeasure by inserting an angry-face emoticon, or astonishment with a wow-face emoticon—when we may not feel anything like true anger or astonishment, in which case we’re conveying pseudo emotions. They’re not real.

Sometimes the feelings involved are deep and genuine—I’m not suggesting we’re all phonies on social media (but I think a lot of us are a lot more unreal there than we care to admit). Continue reading “The Value of Words”

So, What Do You Do for a Living?

Can you relate to this?

Every now and then I’ll meet someone new in a social setting (gasp!), and during our getting-acquainted chitchat they[1] will ask what I do for a living, and vice versa. This is of course normal for most of us. Usually, instead of immediately launching into a detailed explanation of what I do in my workaday world, I’ll abbreviate it with a one- or two-word descriptor couched in terms of who I am. We all do this. We say, “I am a teacher . . . plumber . . . carpenter . . . homemaker . . . sales manager . . . pastor . . . circus clown . . . accountant . . . police officer . . . business owner”—whatever. If the other person wants more detail, we’re usually happy to oblige.

For the past twenty years, I’ve worked in various capacities in higher education. I’ve been an instructor in the classroom (both undergraduate and graduate); I’ve been a research technician, conducting statistical analyses using data sets both large and small;[2] and for the lion’s share of the past twenty years I’ve been a counselor—an academic counselor. I retired from full-time employment at a large university five years ago; since then, in semi-retirement, I have worked part time at a community college as an academic counselor, and I love it. I also enjoy my freelance work at home as a copyeditor, blog writer, and occasional voiceover guy. I keep busy and, for the most part, out of trouble. Continue reading “So, What Do You Do for a Living?”

Short and Sweet

What is your typical communication style?

Groucho Marx 01Effective communication is a major challenge for most of us. I’m not talking about simple willingness to speak or write, nor merely to be a good listener, both of which are important aspects of effective communication. As for being willing to speak, we all know people who can talk our ears off—usually about themselves—no matter what the original topic was, at the slightest provocation. They seem neither to notice nor care if we’re tracking with them. There’s a word for this clueless babbling: logorrhea (law-ga-REE-a).[1] Informally, I call it the yada-yadas or the blah-blah-blahs. But logorrhea is descriptive and has a certain ick factor because of the –rrhea suffix it shares with another well-known word. I don’t know of anybody yet who’s called in sick to work because they were up all night with a bad case of logorrhea, but it could happen. Continue reading “Short and Sweet”