On How To Survive Conferences And Not Get Tripped Up By A Word

At a conference earlier this week, I had to get up and share my views on our ‘company culture’ which inevitably led to the usage of the word ‘diva’.  Well because we have our fair share of divas… and martyrs in my industry. Who doesn’t?

So this post is really about that word – diva – but it is also a short ‘how to’ post on surviving conferences (we call them camps in our industry) that go on for days.

Tip #1

Play games.  For example:  I play a game where I count how many times Steve gets to use much-used and therefore stale expressions like ‘from the ground up’ or ‘yesterday’s weather’.

OR

How many times Sally decides to abbreviate everything for the sake of clarity confusion like ‘so in XPSPR we noted that PRV didn’t happen in time for XGT to process the order’

I have a small notebook dedicated to abbreviations.  Most of which I am still stumbling through.  Sally you see, is a far superior being in every way and I’m afraid if I don’t get to understand at least 20% of what she is saying, my bosses will soon realize they made a mistake hiring me.

Tip #2

Do drink at the company dinners, if so inclined, but not too much. No one wants to hear how you’re ‘hungover’ during your ‘showcase’ event or presentation.

Tip #3

Don’t use a word during your own presentation or talk that you know always trips you up, leaving you red-faced because everyone knows ‘diva’ rhymes with ‘geezer’ but for some reason you pronounce as ‘diver’ because your neurons don’t fire as they should …and then blame your flawed tongue on the mojitos from the night before.

Do you have a word that continually trips you up, no matter how many times you practice saying it in front of the mirror?

There Are No Victims Here

Most of us are familiar with the idiom ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’ and most of us will agree it is untrue.  Words hurt. Words can be turned into weapons that pierce hearts, crush dreams and break spirits.  I have always been particularly sensitive to how we use words and what compels us to choose one word over another.

If you watch the news or keep up with events online or in print, you will have read or heard a phrase like this a thousand times over  ‘he/she was victim of a heinous crime’ and description of said crime.  The truth is most of us (if not all of us) have been ‘victims’ of something less-than-desirable through no fault of our own.  We have been victims of neglect, absence, abuse, unfairness, misfortune and crime and not because we ‘deserved’ to be victimized but because things happen all the time to the best (and worst) of us.  That’s life.

I am one of those people who crave the ‘after story’.  I want to know more about said ‘victim’ of wolverine attack, avalanche, burglary, rape, molestation etc.  I want to know if you saw the road ahead fork in two.  I want to know if you believe in second and third chances.  I want to know if you still get up in the morning to shower, brush your teeth and get on with creating your life.  I want to know if you hope again, love again and dream again.  I want to be inspired and am inspired by people who refuse to be labelled or prescribed to.  I am inspired by people who will not be defined by an experience or a poor word but fear for those who continue to play the victim card.

Words can also heal.  They have resurrective properties. Someone who has overcome; someone who has fought back; someone who has clawed their way back out and up and resisted is a survivor.  I wish more journalists would adopt the word ‘survivor’ and drop the word ‘victim’ when reading the news. I wish more of us realized this world is populated by survivors. Victims are dead.

What word do you find pejorative or inadequate and wish would be dropped from the lexicon?

Stuck In The Middle

I am one of those crazy people who jots down ideas or images for stories and poems on the back of receipts, paper towels, journals, notebooks and calendars.  I also have Evernote and more than one short story (all works-in-progress) open on my laptop at all times even when I am away at work.   What all this means is that I am a hoarder of words and ideas and paper.

Anyway a strange thing happened earlier this week that made me realize I have a serious problem.  I don’t think it requires surgery but certainly a visit to the head doctor may be overdue.

I discovered I had saved a version of one of the short stories I have been working on for oh, let’s say four months on Dropbox.  I then discovered another version of it – under a different title – in Word Documents.   To give you an indication of just how brilliant I am – one of the versions is titled simply ‘Short Story’.  Another is ‘Girl Walks Into A Bar’.  Yes.  Really.

Genius.

All in all I have discovered three versions of what is essentially the same story with the same characters.   What bothers me is how I didn’t even realize I had been doing this? Seems like I would write a new paragraph and save it without really noticing where I was saving it to.

Has this happened to you?

The good news is I now have two versions that I really like and one that needs to be deleted as soon as I pluck up the courage to do so.   The bad news is that these two (delightfully different) versions have me firmly and very resolutely stuck in the middle.  The end is apparently still nowhere in sight.

THE MIDDLE

Image:  Dallas Clayton

Discovering New Words

I’m a list maker.  I have a “We’re All Out of…” list, a “Wants (Not Needs) List” (because it’s important to know the difference and I have way more wants than needs) and a dynamic “Must-Read list”.  Recently I started a “Word List” because it goes without saying that I love words and I am trying to increase my vocabulary.  My first attempt at introducing a new word into everyday conversation at home went pretty much the same way as the Titanic’s maiden voyage.

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Here’s how it played out:

“J, is this what I think it is?”

“What?” Shouts response as he removes headphones.

“Is this sugar cane peeking out from underneath the printer on your desk?”

“What does it look like?”

“Well it looks like it could have once been a piece of sugar cane but then it could also be a piece of moldering bamboo.”

“It’s sugar cane.”

“Where did you get sugar cane?”  (Really a legitimate question considering where we live and the time of year)

“R gave me some.”

“Right.”

“Right.”

“I think this sugar cane should be defenestrated.”

Now it is possible – highly likely in fact – that I did not use this word correctly because J let out one long sigh and went back to watching Youtube. “Defenestration” means “to throw something or someone out the window” and while it did not in fact elicit a response from my teenage son I did get to pronounce this word out loud.

I stumbled upon another new word this week.  It’s adumbration (n).  The verb “adumbrate” means to “foreshadow vaguely” or “to suggest, disclose, partially disclose”. Synonyms include to “foreshadow” and “harbinger”.  I’ll have to slip it in somewhere in my novel…

What ‘new’ words have you discovered recently? 

Words to Avoid

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One of my high school English teachers hated the words ‘put’ and ‘like’ with a passion usually reserved for religious zealots.    The word ‘put’ she said could be replaced by any number of better and prettier words and the word ‘like’ was used by ‘lazy’ people.  I took her lessons to heart and to this day I still resist in particular the word ‘put’ because whenever I try to use it with a sequence of living words it sinks like a lead weight. 

Since I love words and ‘like’ was not quite the ‘coolest word ever’ when I was in school it was relatively easy to replace.  If you have teenagers or know teenagers or hang out with teenagers because you are one or want to be part of a group for as long as you can then you probably use ‘like’ as much as you do your Apple gadgets.    Linguists will tell you that teens use the word ‘like’ not only as slang but also as a filler.   Fillers are a way we all stall for time when speaking.   Like ‘um’ or ‘ah’.  

There are many words writers are advised to avoid if we hope to create powerful prose.  We’re told to avoid words like ‘suddenly’ and ‘then’ and ‘that’ and my own personal favourite ‘very’ (Mark Twain said writers could substitute ‘damn’ every time they’re inclined to use ‘very’). I try to think of that when I want to describe something as ‘very interesting’ or ‘very hot’…

What word/s do you avoid or try to avoid? Was it because it was ingrained in you by a teacher or do you just dislike the word?