Category Archives: Communication

for matters relating communication

Shifting and Different Meanings

Language can change meaning over time. Confusion can ensue.

For one example, see this week’s Odd Language.

There used to be a company whose name was sometimes written all in lower case as “viagrafix”. It was pronounced “via graphics”. These days, the first thought would likely be “viagra fix”. Just a little different!

If you say something and get looked at oddly by someone of a notably different age, it might just be that a meaning has shifted.

Explaining Quickly and Clearly

In my job, I have recently had to explain to other people how to do parts of it.

How does one do this quickly without appearing to treat the other person as if he were stupid but still get the important points across?

Over the past four months, I have picked up a number of points that are important. For a fairly simple job, there sure are a lot of them.

It is something like an elevator speech. (How would you introduce yourself if you were in an elevator? (Limited time.))

I have not figured it out totally, but it is an interesting exercise.

Odd Language #225: It’s Sorted?

“It’s sorted.”

The issue: I thought this about a confusion at work that I had worked out. My boss’s assistant might have asked, and that is how I could have replied. However, my job involving preparing rock and soil samples for processing; this is called sorting. This means that when I had the confusion sorted, I did not have the work (sorting) done. I would have created another confusion. Context counts!

Cultural Appreciation vs. Cultural Appropriation II

Having done some more reading about cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation after last week’s Cultural Appreciation vs. Cultural Appropriation, I see a wonderful minefield.

Some people have a very good point about cultural misappropriation, but others have a very good point about how participating in other culture’s activities can be educational and enlightening and lots of fun.

My favourite part of the minefield is at Wikipedia’s Cultural Appropriation article, this paragraph: ‘While nearly all Native Americans and their tribes object to depictions as sports mascots, only one tribe explicitly approves of such representations. The Florida State Seminoles, which uses the iconography of the Seminole tribe and whose mascots are Osceola and Renegade, a depiction of the Seminole chief Osceola and his Appaloosa horse. After the NCAA attempted to ban the use of Native American names and iconography in college sports in 2005, the Seminole Tribe of Florida passed a resolution offering explicit support for FSU’s use of Seminole culture and Osceola as a mascot; the university was granted a waiver, citing the close relationship with and consultation between the team and the tribe. In 2013, the tribe’s chairman objected to outsiders meddling in tribal approval, stating that the FSU mascot and use of Seminole iconography “represents the courage of the people who were here and are still here, known as the Unconquered Seminoles.” Conversely, in 2013, the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma expressed disapproval of “the use of all American Indian sports-team mascots in the public school system, by college and university level and by professional sports teams”, and not all members of the tribe’s Florida branch are supportive of its stance.’

You just can not win if you always want everyone to approve of what you do, can you?

I have decided that I am not going to worry about it. If I see an activity that interests me, I may get involved regardless of the culture. I do try to be sensitive to others, but I might miss. Apologies are easy if one did not intend to offend in the first place. I will correct and carry on and understand somewhat better.

Odd Language #217: URLs as Language

What is wrong with this URL:

The issue: While a URL is not ordinary language, it often has meaning. This URL is misleading, because the euthanasia rate in the Netherlands is not 45% as the URL seems to state but rather is 4.5%. However, periods are typically not in the middle of a URL. (They are in the site name and the suffix (such as “.html”)).

The Dying Post Office

The post office is not doing so well these days. I hardly ever have to mail anything, and neither do many others. The common wisdom is that this situation was caused by E-mail. I had occasion to think over the matter recently, and I have concluded that it was not E-mail and that E-mail was not even the second thing contributing to the decline of snail mail.

I think that the decline started with the telephone. Whereas before the telephone, one might use the mail to invite someone to visit or to arrange a visit, with the telephone, one can simply call.

Shortly after the telephone was invented, one official stated that it would never catch on, because there were a lot of messenger boys. We know how that worked out!

When telephone callers could place their own long-distance calls, this accelerated. This happened back in the 1960’s.

Still, I would pay bills by mail. The second nail was when one could make payments where one banked. I think I was first doing this in the 1980’s. I have done this for years. I pay my telephone bill and my credit card bills at my credit union.

Then, E-mail became commonplace. Sure, it has had an impact, but I think that the telephone and being able to pay bills where one banks were there with the daggers first.

How Much Do You Know? and Training

At my new job, I am still learning how to do things. One of my co-workers, who is a nice enough person, does not seem to understand how much he knows about the job that I do not.

He said that he had told me everything about a weighing program we use. He actually had not. I have had to fill in the details so that I can use the program effectively.

I see this situation quite a bit.

Another example is games. You have a board game that you like playing. How easily can you explain to someone else how to play it?

Some people can not explain very well at all. One can get very confused trying to learn from them.

Some are very good at it. I am in this category, because I have worked at it. One of the benefits of a background in systems analysis is that I am good with how systems work. By breaking things down into their component parts, one can make a complex system simpler to understand.

That person who does not get how something works when you know quite well how it works is probably not stupid. He could just be missing a few details that are obvious to you but not to him.

How about giving him those details?

Point-of-View Blindness

You have a point-of-view. It lets you see some things. Unfortunately, if you use it wrong, it can prevent you from seeing things.

I was recently talking with someone (Dan) who is having trouble with math. He sees that. He tried to get help from another student who does understand the math Dan is having trouble with. The other student, though, does not understand how Dan does not understand. Because of that, his explanations confused Dan more than ever.

That other student would not make a good math tutor. Understanding math is not enough. One also has to understand how someone else could fail to understand. That requires stepping past one’s immediate point-of-view.

There is nothing special about your point of view other than it being yours. It might not be enough when you are dealing with others. Consider that the next time you try to teach or persuade someone else.

Unnecessary Change

The computer field has a lot of change. Personally, I think that there is too much. Quite often, changes appear to be made for the sake of change. When this breaks something that was working, it is somewhat irritating.

My local corner store is a combination Esso/7-11. I have an Esso loyalty card.

It used to be that I would be prompted to swipe my card; the swipe would then be acknowledged with a message.

Obviously, this was too easy.

Now, there is no prompt. There is an acknowledgement of the swipe (I think): the display blinks once.

Who thought that this would be better?

It is not as if there are not other changes that would be more useful. For example, if I wish to redeem points and make a purchase, it has to be done as two transactions. My Petro-Canada loyalty card does not have that limitation.