Say It Again, Sam

word laziness

image by Timothy Paule II on Pexels

I received my weekly report card from Grammarly yesterday. If you don’t already know, Grammarly is (according to their own website) “an online grammar checking, spell checking, and plagiarism detection platform for the English language developed by Grammarly, Inc.”

Even though I consider myself above average in spelling, punctuation, and word usage, I use Grammarly as a second set of eyes.

But you know that little dog that you just can’t trust NOT to nip your fingers or ankles? That’s how I feel about Grammarly. I use it, but don’t trust it 100% since sometimes the suggestions it makes are flat out wrong.

My recent report card (which compares my writing to every other person who uses the program) stated I was:

92% more productive, 82% more accurate, and that I used a whopping 95% more “unique words.”

I’m most happy to see the percentage of unique words. Why? Like many people, I can slip into being a word-lazy person in my writing and speaking.

As I wrote in my June 2018 post Searching for Just the Right Word, it’s oh-so-easy to slip into our own private reservoir of words we’re comfortable using. (Did you notice how the phrase reservoir of words was more entertaining than if I had said group of words?)

Some years back there was an article called Is Google Making Us Stupid? The jury is still out on that one, but I believe the Google keyboard for Android (called Gboard) is adding to our word laziness. This is due to its predictive nature. It remembers phrases you’ve used before and offers them up for you to choose instead of typing the actual words.

As an example, if I am texting someone and type “I hope that you are” it offers a choice of next word(s) of “having” or “doing well” or “well.” When I choose “having” and add “a” then it offers the adjectives “great” or “good” or “wonderful.”

No wonder our messages sound like blah-blah-blah.

With the recent back-to-back mass shootings, some people were upset with those who posted the phrase “thoughts and prayers” in response to social media articles about the horror. While thoughts and prayers is a sincere response from many, the rampant overuse of the phrase has made its online response seem meaningless.

You don’t need to be a professional writer or speaker to pepper your spoken or written words with out-of-the-ordinary ones. There are some how-to suggestions in my former post I’ve linked below.

I’m going to issue a challenge to my readers: The next time you want to wish someone a happy birthday (whether in person, or on social media, or by an actual birthday card sent in the mail), say or write something other than the words Happy Birthday. And no, the happiest of birthdays is not an alternative.

Even if you say or write just one sentence, make it personable; say something fantastic.

And by the way, did you know the original late 14th century meaning of the word fantastic was this: existing only in imagination.

So yes…make it fantastic!

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Lifted Up post “Searching for Just the Right Word” from June 26, 2018

Understanding predictive keyboards

Grammarly’s post on the top ten overused adjectives

Graphic from GrammarCheck.net

A Legacy Revisited

legacy

Image courtesy of David Zydd on Pixabay.com

I often hear people talk about “leaving a legacy.”  And I believe they mean what important accomplishment of theirs will stand the test of time. In other words, they want to identify what individual success they will be remembered for long after they’re gone.

The word didn’t start out with that meaning. The legal meaning is property or money bequeathed to someone in a will. Another meaning is that of heritage which is defined on Wiktionary as “a tradition; a practice or set of values that is passed down from preceding generations through families or through institutional memory. ” And in university-speak, legacy means a person who is the descendant of an alumnus.

I’m surprised that the more contemporary definition of individual legacy hasn’t been officially accepted since it’s so widely used.

Oprah Winfrey tells the story of the time she was reprimanded by her long-time friend and mentor Maya Angelou. Oprah was over-the-top ecstatic about having established a girls’ school in South Africa. She was enthusiastically sharing the details with Maya and concluded with, “This school will be my greatest legacy.”

But Oprah said that Maya stopped her right there and said: You have no idea what your legacy will be. Because your legacy is every life you touch. It’s not one thing; it’s everything.

When we are feeling less than (and I believe we each go through times like that), we need to remember Maya Angelou’s words. We may not be rich or famous or have a world-class education or run international companies, but my gosh, think for just a moment. Really, I want you to think about the lives you yourself have touched with kindness or encouragement or gratitude or generosity or any of the dozens of other positive traits that exist.

Trust me on this: Your legacy will be absolutely amazing.

~~~~~~~~

Oprah’s commencement speech on legacy

Oprah Winfrey sharing the legacy story

Welcoming the Sun

welcome the sun

Woman Welcoming The Sun (stained glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany)

One of my favorite wall calendars of all time featured photos of some of the stained glass works of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933). As Macklow Gallery eloquently states on their website, Tiffany “forged a unique style that combined superb craftsmanship with a love of natural forms and brilliant color. His luminous glass designs combined technical innovations with the highest artistry, infusing everyday objects with beauty inspired by nature.”

I am most fond of the Tiffany work called Woman Welcomes the Sun, pictured above.  A few years ago, in going through some old files, I came across a beautiful piece of writing about welcoming the sun. I immediately knew I had to combine the two. The framed combo hangs directly above my writing desk.

Being unable to cite the source of the writing, I have hesitated about sharing it with you. If you’ve been a reader very long, you know I go to great lengths to avoid plagiarism. I have no idea where I first read the passage because it’s been many years.

I have searched online using the first line, bits of its phrasing, and even the word “verities” because how many times do you come across that word in a year? Note: Grammarly refuses to recognize it as a word. I even searched a quartet of words (verities, solace, realities, serenity) that are contained within the writing. And no, it didn’t even pop up on “Quote Investigator.”

(By the way, according to an online dictionary, a verity is “a true principle or belief, especially one of fundamental importance.” The peak period for the word being used was between 1850-1950, so perhaps the quote or essay is beyond the copyright period anyhow.)

So with those acknowledgments of my efforts and my statement that I am NOT the author, here is the bit of literary inspiration I read every day.

As the sun is rising on this new day, look to it well.

Today alone is life.

In its brief course lie all the verities and realities of existence…

the stimulus of thought, the glory of action, the awareness of beauty,

the serenity of meditation, the impulse to achieve,

the healing power of laughter, the warmth of gratitude,

the solace of loving and being loved.

Yesterday has passed on and is now but a memory.

Tomorrow has yet to be born and is only a formless vision.

But today, lived to its fullest in our relationship to our faith, makes yesterday a memory of happiness and tomorrow a vision of hope.

I hope you have a magnificent tomorrow.

~~~~~

Macklowe Gallery biographical information on Tiffany

 

Don’t Be Ranunculus!

Ranunculus

Photo courtesy of Daniel Wanke on Pixabay.com

Somehow I became a fan and collector of Marjolein Bastin’s work without knowing it and without intention.

Marjolein is a 75-year-old Dutch artist. As a very young girl, she fell in love with nature. Every walk or venture outside found her collecting flower petals, pinecones, feathers, and seeds. To this day, she follows the same routine. Every afternoon she walks outside in nature to soak it all in. She has an uncanny knack for ferreting out the tiniest interesting detail of a scene. She collects items from nature on her walks and then arranges them into scrapbooks for future inspiration.

Rising at six and working on her art until evening is a clear indication that she loves what she does and doesn’t consider it labor at all.

Her work is found worldwide since she and Hallmark have a partnership. Actually, I think the first piece depicting her art I ever bought was at a Hallmark store. It’s a small, short table with metal legs and a garden scene on top. Then at a consignment store, I found a dozen salad plates, half of them with the same scene as on the table. Then I was given a candle with a winter scene etched on the glass and top; later I found a free-standing ornament that repeated the same scene. Through the years I’ve bought her planner calendars. There are another half-dozen items with the famous MB stamp on them around my home, many of them bought without my realizing it was her work.

The salad plates have the botanical names of the flowers written around the outside edge of the plates. One of the flowers pictured and named is ranunculus. When my children were teens, we thought that was a perfectly good word to use in place of ridiculous. “He said what? Oh, that is absolutely ranunculus!”

We still say it today.

And in fact, my daughter chose ranunculus as one of the flowers in her wedding bouquet.

That made me smile.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Three-minute interview

Her calendars

And It’s Not Even My Birthday

Be loved. Be lifted. Believe. Photo by Norma Thatcher

Aren’t unexpected gifts just the best? On birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas or Hanukkah, and other holidays, we are conditioned to be in the receiving mode. On those special days, we are not surprised to find a brightly wrapped package with a big bow or a festive gift bag, tissue paper popping up as if to beckon us, “Open me!”

So on Saturday when my husband brought in the mail on a non-special day and said, “You have a package,” my face lit up.

The package contained an unexpected gift from my friend Jenn. I knew that she had been having a rough summer. Her family had owned some retail shops including Hallmark stores. Sadly, with online shopping overshadowing sales at brick and mortar retail stores, coupled with the next generation of the family living out of the area, they made the difficult decision to close the stores this summer.

In a note accompanying my gift, Jenn wrote that the last purchase she made from her store was chosen from among the 2018 Hallmark ornaments, and it was for me. As you can see in the photo attached to this post, my gift is a white porcelain feather inscribed with these words:   Be loved. Be lifted. Believe.

Say those words out loud with me. The phrasing is a tad unusual, right? Usually we hear the admonition TO love one another and TO lift up others.

But these words are more of a request. This is grace-filled phrasing.

No matter what we’ve done or not done, or said, or accomplished…we are loved.

One response to “be loved” is, “No, I just can’t accept the gift of love. I don’t deserve to be loved because I’m not _____ enough.” (You can fill in the blank for yourself.)

The other response is to say Thank you and accept the gift; to be willing to be loved even if we feel we fall short of being our best.

The same concept applies to “be lifted.” There is much tragedy, injustice, and sorrow in our world. We may not want to give up our piece of whatever has broken us. In fact, we may have held on to it for so long that we’re comfortable with it. Not happy, but comfortable because it’s what we know.

But allowing ourselves, permitting ourselves, to be lifted from the brokenness can be life-changing.

As the late Mr. Rogers shared his mother’s advice for coping in difficult times, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Yes, others will help us; will lift us up if we will be lifted.

And then finally, “believe.” It’s out there on its own. There is no request to “be” something but simply believe. Believe what?

My gift-giving friend Jenn and I are linked in love by the loss of our sons to drug overdoses. Our daughters are brotherless; our grandchildren are without sweet and funny loving uncles.

But Jenn and I believe in the never-ending power of love. And together we are lifted up.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mr. Rogers advice

The old hymn Love Lifted Me

Your Words Are The Best Words

journal words

Photograph by Norma Thatcher

I have terrible handwriting. Even my printing is bad. Sometimes I can’t read my own writing. In the past, it was frustrating for me to come across a scrap of paper with a name or idea that I’d jotted down and that I could not decipher.

I’ve learned to stop with the scraps of paper. I keep notebooks or tablets handy so that if I have trouble figuring out my hieroglyphics, at least the notes around the mystery words may provide some context.

My dad used to carry around a teeny notebook in his shirt pocket. He’d record the weather, the shifts he was working at the steel mill, and any noteworthy events that may have happened on that day. I actually have one of his books that includes the date September 16, 1950, where he wrote, “Baby was born.” Happy birthday to me!

Journaling is an activity that many experts recommend. Maud Purcell, writing on PsychCentral.com, identified health benefits of keeping a journal. One of them is the strengthening of immune cells and another is decreasing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis!

Along with bodily health benefits, journaling can also help our brains work better and more creatively. A link to the full article follows below this post.

There are no hard and fast rules for keeping a journal. Write about whatever you want, at whichever time you want, as often as you want. You don’t need an expensive Moleskine notebook or a Montblanc pen.

I go by the advice of “big paper, big ideas.” No shirt-pocket-sized versions for me. I also prefer wide-lined paper, which isn’t always easy to find in a grown-up notebook.

In case your brain is saying that keeping a journal is too similar to when you kept a sappy teenage diary, tell your brain to chill. Remind it that many famous people over the years have kept diaries and journals.

Just start writing. Buy a blank journal from the dollar store. Use an old Bic pen. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you write the first word.

What influenced me to write on this topic tonight? Why, thanks for asking.

I had bought two Penman Paper Company wide-lined large journals over twenty years ago. Sadly, I think the company may be out of business because their website domain name is up for sale. These are beautiful, sturdy spiral-bound journals. I had saved them for special occasions. I’m now using them because I’ve decided my life is a special occasion.

The photo at the top of this post is my favorite journal. Today I discovered that in the back of that book, I had hand-written a quote by Frances Mayes from her 1996 book Under the Tuscan Sun.

I do believe it’s just for you:  “A Chinese poet many centuries ago noted that to recreate something in words is like being alive twice.”

Go write the first word. Please.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Maud Purcell article

Link to images of Penman Paper Company journals just because I’m a geek about paper.

 

It’s On The Tip Of My, uhh….

Tongue

Photo by Mona Eendra on Unsplash

Last Thursday my brain couldn’t come up with the phrase “scavenger hunt.” I was telling a story to friends in which this fun game played a role, but I just couldn’t pull out the phrase.

It’s likely that you’ve had this happen to you as well; you know what you want to say – you can describe it – but you just can’t produce it. It’s on the tip of your tongue but refuses to come out. It’s frustrating.

I have noticed that the older I get, the more I start to panic when this happens. It’s as though the roller coaster of aging fears creeps nearer the top, about to crest over and race down toward a destination of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

But then I wisely apply the roller coaster’s brakes and remind myself that this is a common occurrence. According to a 2017 New York Times article, a “tip of the tongue” state is VERY common.

“You can’t talk to anybody, in any culture, in any language, in any age group, that doesn’t know what you’re talking about” when you describe a tip-of-the-tongue state, said Lise Abrams, a psychology professor at the University of Florida who has studied the phenomenon for 20 years. Researchers have even found occurrences among sign language users. (Those they call tip-of-the-finger states.)

The article also noted that it’s more common for words we use less frequently to be the ones we can’t spit out. I do believe scavenger hunt falls into that category.

If you happen to Google “how common is forgetting a word or phrase,” you will be met with nearly one billion results.

What a relief to know I’m not the only one thinking about this tonight.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

New York Times article about tip of the tongue state

Alzheimer’s link  because no way is this disease a laughing matter.

Internal Bleeding

Words can cause internal bleeding

Photo courtesy of Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Vetigel is a miracle product used on wounds with severe bleeding. It’s an algae-based polymer that’s injected directly into the wound. When it meets tissue, the gel forms a mesh-like material with an adhesive component that holds the wound together.

Currently, it’s a veterinary product only. Joe Landolina was just 17 years old when he invented this product that causes blood to clot in as little as twelve seconds.

A similar product (TraumaGel) for human use is under FDA testing.

Can you just imagine its use on the battlefield or in emergency medicine? How many lives might be saved if “bleeding out” can be stopped almost immediately?

A similar product called XStat is a syringe filled with tiny sponges. They are injected directly into a bleeding wound to compress it from the inside. A femoral artery wound can be sealed in about twenty seconds.

Amazing.

It’s too bad that we can’t create a product to instantly heal the wounds we create by using careless, thoughtless, or even deliberately mean words.

Once spoken or written, we can’t take ugly words back. They are part of our permanent record. An “I’m sorry” or “I didn’t mean it” will not undo the damage. While the wound may not be visible to others, it causes internal bleeding of our soul.

Even though many of us want to think that we are strong people and that we simply won’t let other people bring us down by what they say, the truth is that words can hurt. My calendar-a-day page for yesterday was a quote from Oprah. “Turn your wounds into wisdom.” That is an inspiring sentiment, but in the moment of raw hurt, it does not feel like any kind of wisdom.

Words from others have an amazing array of power over us. They can make us laugh or make us cry. Lift us up or tear us down. Inspire us to do better or convince us to give up. Fill us with hope or add to our despair.

Yes, they’re only words. But they have deep meaning beyond what we can possibly imagine.

Transitioning from Point 1 to Point B

Transition

Photo courtesy of Mathew Schwart on Unsplash

Transition can be defined as an in-between state. It’s a journey, a passage, from one stage to another.

In architecture, a transition is a connecting space between two confined areas. For example, a foyer serves as a transition by connecting the entryway to a living area space.

In life, we may say people are in transition when they’re between life stages such as having just graduated from college but not yet working.

A company may be in transition as they move from one ownership and management style to another.

In the theater, we may be prompted to recognize a transitional state by a change of scenery or by the use of music or light.

So yes, it’s a passage from one state to another, moving from A to B.

The proper use of transitional words or phrases is vital for anyone who performs training or does any type of public speaking. Our audiences (whether in a classroom, boardroom, meeting room, or a large venue) need to be able to follow us if they are to learn from us.

Perhaps, as an audience member, you’ve found yourself out of sync with the speaker and asking yourself, “Is the speaker still on point 3 or has he moved on?” That means the speaker has not done a good job of transitioning.

An effective speaker will leave many breadcrumbs and road signs throughout a presentation or talk. Our audiences need to be able to follow us if they are going to understand, believe, and remember our messages. Here are some ways we can help our listeners follow us.

  1. If naming your main points, be consistent in how you name them. Unlike the title of this post which is purposely misleading, if you use numbers, stick with numbers. (Point one or First) If using letters, stick with letters. You may be saying, “Thank you, Captain Obvious,” but I often hear speakers mixing them up.
  2. It’s not necessary to actually name the points. You can use phrases such as another action item is, moving on to the next idea, a similarly interesting factor is, OR that takes us to the final point. What IS necessary is letting our audiences know we are moving on.
  3. When you provide supporting material for a main point, use transitional phrases such as these to let the audience know you’re not just giving your own opinion: as an illustration, to demonstrate this point, let me show you, to emphasize the importance, experts have noted that, as recent scientific studies show, and other similar phrases.
  4. Time sequences need to be noted; otherwise, our listeners may become confused. If a speaker is covering several time periods, it’s vital to clarify the timing. Say, “That summary was our company’s focus for the first five years. But in 2015, we moved our attention to…. Then last year, we targeted improving employee retention.” These timing transitions help the audience to move right along with the speaker.
  5. The final transition I’ll mention today is the close. Do you see how I set that up? By saying, “The final transition…” I let you know that this post is coming to an end. Endings are meaningful but are often overlooked. I’ve heard speakers cover their last point and then abruptly say, “That’s all I have.” OR “I’m done. Thanks.” Endings may be what your audience most remembers, even if they really liked the entire talk! So let them know you’re transitioning to a close by using phrases similar to these: before I close, in conclusion, in summary, finally, as we come to the end of today’s workshop.

May all of your transitions be both smooth and easy to follow.  

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Good idea words from John A. Dutton e-Education Institute

 

Searching for Just the Right Word

Original word

Photo courtesy of Gavin Allanwood on Unsplash

Do you repeat yourself? No, I’m not inquiring whether or not you tell stories repetitiously. (“Say, have I ever told you about the time I….”)

Instead, I’m asking this: Are you word lazy? Many of us are. We get in a rut, using and overusing the same small vocabulary of words.

In a coaching session last month, I pointed out that a client used the word “thing” seventeen times in a fifteen-minute talk.

She uttered phrases such as, “The number one thing we need to watch for is…” and “The important thing to do first is…” and “Which thing has the most impact?”

I’m fond of speech coach Patricia Fripp’s take on the overuse of the word thing. Fripp has been quoted as saying, “Specificity builds credibility.” When we refer to issues, problems, and solutions as “things” we’re being overly non-specific and so we come across as lacking credibility.

Personally, I overuse the word great. I use it so much it has lost its meaning:  A great meal, a great visit, a great time, a great movie, a great friend, a great idea, a great TED talk…..”How are you, Norma?”  I’m great, thanks for asking.

Great is beginning to grate on my nerves.

Thanks to the online site Thesaurus.com, using the section of synonyms, I’m now building my own list of words to substitute for great. Although it’s not listed as a possible synonym for great, I like the word spectacular.

Listening to yourself is a rewarding experience as I wrote about on March 6.   I understand that can be a daunting exercise. Maybe as you work up your courage to try that, start by paying extra attention to yourself while you’re speaking. See if you can hear/find your own word laziness. Then use the synonym search tool to replace the word.

Note: If you’re hearing too much swearing (as some of my students admit to!), you should cut that out anyhow. You know who you are.

Stuck on a nonsense word or phrase like a parrot? Examples are “Gotcha” and “Right, right,” as your go-to response to let someone know you’re following what they’re saying.

How many words are there? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, there are “full entries for 171,476 words in current use and 47,156 obsolete words. To this may be added around 9,500 derivative words included as subentries.”

Figures are all over the place for the vocabulary of the average American. Links to some articles are below. Do we know 20,000 words?  40,000? 70,000  or more words? But how many words we KNOW and how many words we USE are two different categories.

Let’s step away from our word laziness and use a wider variety of words to tell our stories.

That will be a great thing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Article on how many words are there in the English language

Here is one test for how many words average American knows

Here is a test you can take