Friday, November 25, 2016

Oxford Dictionaries' Word of the Year is a Lie

The Oxford Dictionaries, makers of one of the world's heaviest dictionaries (137.72 pounds), has released its word of the year, as well as the other words that made their shortlist, for the annual recognition. These are the words that "had an impact on 2016, for better or worse," said the dictionary's website. "(They) reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the past twelve months."

The 2016 word of the year is "post-truth," which the Oxford Dictionaries defines as "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."

In other words, people choose to believe opinion and emotion more than actual science, evidence, and their own senses.

Like the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

While the idea of post-truth has always been around, it's only in the last 12 months that we've really seen it surge. If you have a basic working knowledge of American politics, you know that's true.

Well, you believe it to be true, based on actual observations and science, but could be convinced otherwise.

Now, in a post-truth world, mainstream media sources like The New York Times, Washington Post, and the network news carry as much weight as the National Enquirer, your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving, and "some guy I know who read about this online." It's a sad day when a large majority of people decide to ignore two newspapers of record and three decades-old news programs in favor of PatriotInMomsBasement.com.

So thanks to the presidential campaign, as well as the British "Brexit" vote, for bringing about this post-truth world.

Speaking of Brexit, that term made the short list after British nationalism, racism, and Islamophobia won out in that country. Brexit politicians manipulated their own post-truth rhetoric and played on the emotions of their voters, who "demanded their country back."

Immediately following the vote, many British "leavers" expressed their shock and surprise at the vote. They said theirs was a protest vote, and they thought Brexit supporters were just some strident fringe element, and that sanity and normalcy would prevail. They didn't realize their protest vote would have such a dramatic effect on the future of their nation.

Now these Bridiots are bregretting their vote and bremoaning their fate. Looks like they're going to have to be adults and live with their bristake.

Speaking of which, "adulting" made the short list as well. It's defined as the "informal practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks."

The term is used by new adults who aren't big fans of their new responsibilities, like doing their own laundry, paying bills, or going grocery shopping and not loading up on Cap'n Crunch.

Don't feel bad. I've been doing those things for almost 30 years, and I still don't like it.

Another word on the short list is "coulrophobia", even though it's an older word, dating back to the 1980s, when Stephen King wrote his clown horror story, It.

The Oxford Dictionaries says coulrophobia is "an extreme or irrational fear of clowns."

First of all, it's not extreme or irrational. It's an extremely rational, acceptable, and well-deserved fear. If a bunch of miscreants want to dress as creepy clowns to frighten normal, decent people, it is not irrational to chase those creepy clowns into the woods with a machete or Lord Humungus' car from The Road Warrior.

But my favorite word on the shortlist is "hygge," a Danish word that means "a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being."

The word is pronounced HYOO-guh, as in "hue," or HOOG-uh as in "sugar," and it's grown in popularity here in the United States, as well as the UK, in response to the bitterness surrounding our political campaigns. It's also different from "yuge," which is apparently some kind of New York word that means "bigly."

Hygge is not the only untranslatable word to enter the English language. The German word "schadenfreude," which means the enjoyment we get at someone else's misfortune, is another one.

But after all the screaming and finger pointing has died down, and everyone has settled into their homes for the holidays, I hope you have your own hygge, free of politics and Facebook, with friends and family who truly care about you.

So put on a sweater, light your candles, and get yourself a nice big bowl of Cap'n Crunch. We're done adulting for a few days.


In the original version of this piece, I referred to Oxford Dictionaries as "the Oxford English Dictionary." This is incorrect. Oxford Dictionaries is run by a different team with different editors, data, etc. Hat tip to Grant Barrett of A Way With Words, the premier language and grammar radio show on NPR for catching that error.


Photo credit: Nightscream (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)


You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Oxford Dictionaries' Word of the Year is a Lie

The Oxford Dictionaries, makers of one of the world's heaviest dictionary (137.72 pounds), has released its word of the year, as well as the other words that made their shortlist, for the annual recognition. These are the words that "had an impact on 2016, for better or worse," said the dictionary's website. "(They) reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the past twelve months."

The 2016 word of the year is "post-truth," which the Oxford Dictionaries defines as "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."

In other words, people choose to believe opinion and emotion more than actual science, evidence, and their own senses.

Like the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

While the idea of post-truth has always been around, it's only in the last 12 months that we've really seen it surge. If you have a basic working knowledge of American politics, you know that's true.

Well, you believe it to be true, based on actual observations and science, but could be convinced otherwise.

Now, in a post-truth world, mainstream media sources like The New York Times, Washington Post, and the network news carry as much weight as the National Enquirer, your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving, and "some guy I know who read about this online." It's a sad day when a large majority of people decide to ignore two newspapers of record and three decades-old news programs in favor of PatriotInMomsBasement.com.

So thanks to the presidential campaign, as well as the British "Brexit" vote, for bringing about this post-truth world.

Speaking of Brexit, that term made the short list after British nationalism, racism, and Islamophobia won out in that country. Brexit politicians manipulated their own post-truth rhetoric and played on the emotions of their voters, who "demanded their country back."

Immediately following the vote, many British "leavers" expressed their shock and surprise at the vote. They said theirs was a protest vote, and they thought Brexit supporters were just some strident fringe element, and that sanity and normalcy would prevail. They didn't realize their protest vote would have such a dramatic effect on the future of their nation.

Now these Bridiots are bregretting their vote and bremoaning their fate. Looks like they're going to have to be adults and live with their bristake.

Speaking of which, "adulting" made the short list as well. It's defined as the "informal the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks."

The term is used by new adults who aren't big fans of their new responsibilities, like doing their own laundry, paying bills, or going grocery shopping and not loading up on Cap'n Crunch.

Don't feel bad. I've been doing those things for almost 30 years, and I still don't like it.

Another word on the short list is "coulrophobia", even though it's an older word, dating back to the 1980s, when Stephen King wrote his clown horror story, It.

The Oxford Dictionaries says coulrophobia is "an extreme or irrational fear of clowns."

First of all, it's not extreme or irrational. It's an extremely rational, acceptable, and well-deserved fear. If a bunch of miscreants want to dress as creepy clowns to frighten normal, decent people, it is not irrational to chase those creepy clowns into the woods with a machete or Lord Humungus' car from The Road Warrior.

But my favorite word on the shortlist is "hygge," a Danish word that means "a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being."

The word is pronounced HYOO-guh, as in "hue," or HOOG-uh as in "sugar," and it's grown in popularity here in the United States, as well as the UK, in response to the bitterness surrounding our political campaigns. It's also different from "yuge," which is apparently some kind of New York word that means "bigly."

Hygge is not the only untranslatable word to enter the English language. The German word "schadenfreude," which means the enjoyment we get at someone else's misfortune, is another one.

But after all the screaming and finger pointing has died down, and everyone has settled into their homes for the holidays, I hope you have your own hygge, free of politics and Facebook, with friends and family who truly care about you.

So put on a sweater, light your candles, and get yourself a nice big bowl of Cap'n Crunch. We're done adulting for a few days.


In the original version of this piece, I referred to Oxford Dictionaries as "the Oxford English Dictionary." This is incorrect. Oxford Dictionaries is run by a different team with different editors, data, etc. Hat tip to Grant Barrett of A Way With Words, the premier language and grammar radio show on NPR for catching that error.


Photo credit: Nightscream (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)


You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Castigat Ridendo Mores: What's In Your Motto?

Do you know your state's motto?

Not the bumper sticker slogan that your state's tourism department paid an out-of-state marketing agency $100,000 to create.

No, seriously, $100,000. A couple years ago, the Indiana Office of Tourism Development spent $100,000 to come up with "Honest-to-Goodness Indiana," which a lot of people hated. And who could forget Massachusetts' $300,000 slogan, "Massachusetts . . . Make it Yours" back in 2002?

Those expensive marketing slogans aren't actually associated with a state's founding philosophy and guiding belief. That's what the state motto does.

A state motto is something that's usually been around ever since the state was founded. And it's frequently written in Latin, which means most people don't know what it actually means.

For example, a lot of people think Alabama's motto is "Sweet Home Alabama," but that's just the state slogan, which they've had since 1951. It's also the Lynrd Skynrd song of the same name, which you started humming when I said "Sweet Home Alabama."

It turns out, Alabama's state motto is "Audemus jura nostra defendere," which is Latin for "Don't even try it, we're heavily armed."

Actually, it means "We dare to defend our rights," which sounds like they're picking a fight with Mississippi, whose motto is "Virtute et armis," or "By virtue and arms." So I'm picturing Mississippi and Alabama shooting it out in a Stuckey's parking lot next weekend.

Of course the two states' mottos are much tougher talk than Texas, the state where every person over 12 wears six shooters on their belts.

Texas wants you to think their motto is "Don't mess with Texas."

It's not. It's really not.

Their state motto is "Friendship."

Awwww, that's so cute! It's almost as good as "Land of unicorns and kittens." Or "If our name had an I, we'd put a heart over it." Or "Texas: the X is a kiss."

Sorry, Texas, I'm just messing with you.

Except "Don't mess with Texas" was an anti-littering campaign created by the Texas Department of Transportation in the late '80s. The campaign became so successful, it's been used in countless TV shows, movies, and it's even the motto of the USS Texas submarine.

Of course, the USS Texas is not the best ship in the US Navy. Because the best ship is friendship. (If it weren't unprofessional to write a winky face emoticon in this column, I'd put it right here.)

Speaking of not messing with states, New Hampshire has quite the chip on its shoulder with "Live free or die." It originally came from General John Stark, New Hampshire's most famous general in the Revolutionary War. In 1809, he wrote to some former comrades, "Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils."

It was also adopted as a challenge to the British, who fought another war with the United States just three years later.

Many states have issued similar middle fingers to England, including Pennsylvania ("Virtue, liberty, and independence"), Vermont ("Freedom and unity"), West Virginia ("Mountaineers are always free"), Massachusetts ("By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty"),Virginia ("Sic semper tyrannis," or "Thus always to tyrants"), and Rhode Island ("Suck it, England!").

Virginia's motto is a shortened version of "Sic semper evello mortem tyrannis," or "Thus always I bring death to tyrants." It's believed this was said by Brutus when he stabbed Julius Caesar, although some scholars believe he said, "that'll teach you to sleep with my wife."

Unfortunately, Indiana doesn't have a Latin motto. Ours is just "The Crossroads of America." While it's no "sic semper tyrannis," I always liked it. It means we're the emotional heartland, even though Lebanon, Kansas is the geographic center of our country.

It's also true in an automotive sense: Indiana has four interstate highways that all converge in Indianapolis, connecting us to Kansas City, Toronto, Birmingham, and Washington DC in less than eight hours.

But my favorite state motto is North Carolina's, which we would all do well to follow: Esse quam videri, which means "To be, rather than to seem."

In other words, don't act like it, be it.

If you want to be seen as loving, then be loving. If you want to be seen as helpful, be helpful. And if you want to be seen as a person of action, then act. Don't talk about being loving, don't talk about being helpful, and don't talk about acting.

And don't just talk tough, you have to actually be tough.

Just ask our bestest friends in the whole world, Texas.


(By the way, the Latin phrase in the headline, "Castigat Ridendo Mores," means "laughter corrects morals." According to Mental Floss, "it was coined by French poet Jean de Santeul (1630-97), who intended it to show how useful satirical writing is in affecting social change: the best way to change the rules is by pointing out how absurd they are." I'd like to think Laughing Stalk can perform that function from time to time.


Photo credit: United States Mint/U.S. Government (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Ask Mr. Answer Dad: What Do I Tell My Kids?

Welcome to another week of Ask Mr. Answer Dad, the know-it-all dad who knows everything worth knowing about raising children. If you want to know how to talk to your kids about politics, religion, or sex, Mr. Answer Dad is here to answer all your questions and/or make light of your situation.

Dear Mr. Answer Dad: My 5-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter recently started asking where babies come from. I said they came from my tummy, but they asked how they got in there in the first place. Help me, Mr. Answer Dad. What do I tell my kids? Uncomfortable in Des Moines.

Dear The Monks: Lie to them. Lie to them for as long as you can, until they start public school and learn it on the playground, like we did when we were kids. If you're lucky, your daughter will explain it to your son before he even starts school. Problem solved.

Dear Mr. Answer Dad: My kids went to bed thinking Hillary Clinton was going to be president, and woke up to a Donald Trump presidency instead. What do I tell my kids? Signed, Puzzled in PA.

Dear Personal Assistant: Easy. "Donald Trump is the next president, kids. Now finish your breakfast or you'll miss your bus."

Dear Mr. Answer Dad: I was laid off recently, and have spent the last few days "on vacation" with my family. But we're coming up on the time that I usually go back to work, and my kids will wonder why I'm home. What do I tell my kids? Thanks. Laying on the Couch.

Dear Couch Potato: First, I'm sorry you lost your job. Your boss is no doubt a jerk who will realize she made a terrible mistake, and your absence will leave an empty hole in her soul that she'll try to fill with bad fast food. She'll die sad and alone, and her three cats will feast on her corpse for several days before a neighbor calls the police about the terrible odor coming from her condo.

Wait, what was your question? Oh yeah, telling your kids. Tell them the truth. "I lost my job because they decided they didn't need me anymore. But I'm looking for a new one, and in the meantime, I get to spend more time with you."

Just leave out the part about the cats and your boss' corpse. Also, don't mention you were fired for photocopying your junk.

Dear Mr. Answer Dad: You didn't answer my question earlier. Puzzled in PA.

Dear Public Announcement: How did you get in here? I totally answered your question. Donald Trump is the president. Tell them that. Unless you're planning to move to Canada or New Zealand now, there's not much to tell. Just tell them the truth.

Dear Mr. Answer Dad: I want to move to Canada or New Zealand, but my kids are in a good school and have friends. What do I tell my kids? Signed, Fleeing From Florida.

Dear Flea: Ask your kids, "Have you ever seen snow? How would you like to see it seven months out of the year?" Also, say their friends were talking about them behind their backs. Finally, tell them you're all going on a really long vacation and will come back in four or eight years, depending on how things go here.

Dear Mr. Answer Dad: I think what Puzzled in PA means is, my kids have friends who are gay, in minority groups, in other religions, are from other countries, or are any of the other groups our new president hates. They're afraid of what could happen to their friends. What do we tell our kids? Signed, Waiting for 2020.

Dear 2020: Here's what you tell them: America is still a great country, made up of good people. Not everyone who voted for Trump believes in hatred. In fact, many do not.

Tell them, we will get through this, as a family, as a community, and as a country. It's going to be hard, but we have faced bigger challenges and prevailed. (The other side survived eight years of Obama, so we can put up with four years of Cheeto Hitler.)

And you tell them, 2020, that as long as your kids have their friends' backs, you've got theirs. That you'll stand up for your kids while they stand up for their friends. That you'll stand up for your neighbors and friends who need your help. Spend the next four years teaching them what it means to be be better than the bigotry and hatred shown by a deplorable few. Tell them, 2020, that your family stands for honor and goodness, which are the real American values, and that you will be strong for the people who need you to be strong.

Because it's what they'll tell their own kids one day.


Photo credit: The Des Moines, Iowa skyline (Tim Kiser, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.5)


You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Canadian Super Baby Attacked by Cheese

Dear hyper-intelligent super baby,

May I call you Juli?

I was sorry to read about your recent injury, when you broke your leg at the Great Canadian Cheese Rolling Festival, in Whistler, BC. That's unfortunate, and must not have felt very gouda.

Sorry! I'm so sorry! I make terrible jokes when I'm nervous.

I'm nervous, Juli, because I read on the CBC website that you filed a lawsuit in October over your injury. I figured a three-year-old who can file a lawsuit is a baby to be reckoned with.

My wife says your dad, Toshihiro Nonaka, filed the lawsuit, but I'm not so sure. The Canadian newspapers all named you as the plaintiff, which means you're more advanced than all other babies in the world.

So I thought I would write to you, since a) a hyper-intelligent super baby will most likely run the world one day, and b) you can probably already read. I'd like to offer some friendly advice and wisdom as you rise to ultimate power.

First, I read that the culprit was a five kilogram wheel of farmhouse cheddar. That's 11 pounds! I'm not surprised your leg was broken. That's the weight of a bowling ball or a gallon of paint, rolling down a hill at 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour. It must have been pretty scary to see it rolling straight at you like some round Muenster.

Monster! I mean monster!

I saw the photos in the newspapers, you laid up in a hospital bed, your little leg in a cast. It was a pretty pink cast, but you were no doubt feeling bleu.

Sorry, blue! I did it again.

I'm sure your parents must be feeling devastated. I'm a father of three, and I can imagine your parents' heartbreak at watching their little girl get hurt when she was just trying to have some fun. As much as your leg hurts now, your parents will feel terrible about it for the rest of their lives.

Some might argue they shouldn't have let you sit so close to the fence, but most parents never assume the worst, although we work to avoid it. We try to walk a fine line between letting our kids be kids, and wanting to protect them from every bad thing.

Even so, bad things do happen, and gruyere — sorry, you were! — one of the unfortunate ones. So I understand why you'd sue the organizers, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Smak Media, and Vail Resorts. Please bear in mind that Vail Resorts did not own the Whistler Blackcomb resort when you got hurt in August.

I read that you were behind the safety net, right where the cheese stretched it and hit you. What are the odds? That was a one-in-a-million collision. Although if you win this suit, it might be a million-in-a-million collision.

No one has actually said what you're seeking in damages, Juli, but if you were in the United States, it would probably be for a few million dollars. People here can be greedy and opportunistic at times. I hope you don't let greed get the cheddar of you.

Better! Oh God, I can't stop!

As you get older, you'll learn that cheese rolling is an old and dangerous sport. And that certain things in life carry a risk, including watching sporting events.

There are stories of people being killed watching car races, getting hit with balls and bats at baseball games, or even being hit by a flying puck at a hockey game. And those are at professional venues where special care is taken to keep spectators safe.

Cheese rolling is no different. In 1990, at the Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake in England, 22 people were injured during the race. In 1997, 33 people were injured, which nearly caused the women's race to be cancelled. Several spectators were also injured at those events, so you're one of the "lucky few" in the world to ever be injured during a cheese-based sporting event.

In fact, it's kind of funny when you think about it, Juli. There are 7 billion people in the world right now, and only a few can say "I was injured at a cheese rolling race." But your case may be truly unique, as the youngest cheese rolling spectator ever to be injured.

I hope you can look back at it and laugh, when you tell it to your family, friends, and cabinet of special global advisors: "When I was three, my leg was broken by a runaway wheel of cheese."

It's nacho typical cheese story.

Photo credit: A race at The Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake on 27th May 2013, author Dave Farrance (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons)

Photo credit: Warning sign for Cooper's Hill Cheese Roll, used with kind permission by John Hudson, owner of the Cheese-Rolling.co.uk website


You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.