Language and the stories we tell about its origins are highly political. To understand one, you need to be mindful of the other.
That’s the main thesis of the 2011 book You Are What You Speak by Robert Lane Greene, who also writes a twice-monthly column on language in The Economist that I adore as a subscriber. I finished the book earlier this year as part of my continued assault on better understanding language’s history — read other reading notes of mine on language here.
This book helped cement my understanding that my favorite part of linguistics is philology, or the historical and comparative elements that seem quite cultural.
Below I share pieces of the book that stood out to me. But as always I encourage you to buy your own copy and read it; I only write nerdy posts like this when a book has really added to my worldview. So I strongly recommend it.
Continue reading How we speak signals education. But it is not the same thing as education: Robert Lane Greene
One unexpected result of becoming CEO of my own company is that I found myself without a traditional budget line I could pull from.
As we grew our company, we created a budget aligned with core functions. I stepped into a role in which I was overseeing them all, but I didn’t set aside budget for me in last year’s budget for myself. That sparked me to wonder how other CEOs approached giving themselves budgetary space to experiment, explore and trial.
Continue reading How to fund small projects as a CEO
I had read other books by popular marketer Seth Godin (I was a regular reader back in 2009). But not one of his best known, one most aligned with work I do, his 2008 Tribes.
A friend (thanks Kristin!) handed me a copy last year and told me to get it done already. Godin is so ubiquitous in web circles that I stopped pursuing his work. I do respect his perspective and approach; I just expect to come across it from his passionate follower base. I supposed a friend handing me the book was just that.
I read it in a weekend last fall, and I just came across the notes I wrote down for myself. Below find them.
Continue reading Nobody wants to follow someone who made General in Peacetime: notes from Tribes by Seth Godin
The words we have for drinking vessels are old ones. Glass, mug and cup are all very old ideas.
Hence, there’s quite a bit of culture tied to them. So, though, I’m not an overly particular person in many household respects, I have a lot of opinions about them.
I remember being a teenager and finding a common bond among friends because we all agreed (and struggled to explain why), we thought it was strangely discomforting to have milk served in a plastic cup. Understand, we weren’t richly cultured.
We were middle -class teenagers who for the first time were confronting together an opinion developed independently based on culture and lived experience. This was new.
This is going to be a strange little post about feelings and memories about tiny, meaningless things. If you’re paying attention, you might draw conclusions to feelings about language and fashion and so many other cultural elements.
Continue reading Apparently I have a lot of opinions about what cup you should use for your drink
A version of this essay was published as part of my monthly newsletter a couple weeks back. In its own way, it commemorates African American History Month. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.
Dr. King is likely the American thinker who comes to my mind more than any other. Not the populist who was culturally moderated over time into a convenient character for classroom posters. But the difficult and complicated and tortured man, the leader who was flawed and inspiring and masterful in so many ways.
When a MLK quote rattles in my head, it isn’t his iconic, if tired, classic: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Pulled from its context, that’s always seemed to me to be too universal to stir. Instead, it comforts, and I’ve found always found MLK misunderstood when he’s seen as a comforting.
Continue reading Our ‘tranquilizing drug of gradualism’
Modern linguistics is based largely on a descriptivist view of language, describing common usage. Many grammarians follow a more prescriptivist view: if we don’t prescribe, language will falter.
I read a host of pop linguistics books this year, challenging my prescriptivist publishing origins with a small library of descriptivist perspective. I also consumed podcasts, articles and other interviews with experts on the matter. (Most recently this conversation.)
Along this exploration, I was familiar with several of the most-cited grammar classics (King’s English and Elements of Style among them). But I hadn’t read Eats, Shoots and Leaves, published by Lynne Truss in 2006. So I changed that late last year.
I wanted to share a few notes below.
Continue reading Punctuation today: notes from the 2006 bestseller “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”
A decade ago this month a couple friends and I started down a pathway that became Technical.ly so in the next couple weeks I am going to do some sharing.
A couple weeks ago, we hosted our inaugural Alumni Ball — gathering both current and former staff at the Pen and Pencil Club — and on February 26th in Philadelphia, we’re hosting a public celebration, conjoined with our largest jobs fair. We’ll also run plenty of editorial mentions honoring this anniversary.
First things first publicly, I wrote a Twitter thread unashamedly showing off about how lucky I feel about the team I am a part of right now. I’m sharing that here, with slight editing.
Continue reading A thank you to my coworkers ahead of Technical.ly’s 10th anniversary
Americans are rotten at saving for retirement.
It’s at least in part because of the seismic market change from 20th century-era defined benefit offerings (the pension you might have gotten working at a company in 1972) to today’s climate of defined contribution plans (the 401k you have at work or the IRA you might have with a company like Vanguard). More recently the Great Recession complicated the story more.
Whatever the case, we know one in three Americans has less than $5,000 in retirement savings. Two-thirds of Americans say they’ll outlive what they have saved, including the half of households that have no retirement-specific savings at all. Rules of thumb to the contrary abound: you ought to have the equivalent of a year’s salary by the time you turn 30, and you might want at least 10 times your top earning salary saved by the time you do retire.
When things are stressful, I tend to try to find some way to make them more approachable.
It’s in part why for the last several years, two childhood friends and I have gotten together once a year to discuss what we’ve tried, learned and accomplished on the subject the previous year. With a bit of nerdy glee, we call it Personal Finance Day, and we just held the fourth annual earlier this month.
Continue reading Your retirement savings goal to strive for should mean you never dip into principal
The Human Capital Management industry is a big one. Many segment it into Search and Placement, still a $23 billion annual gargantuan that encompasses how companies hire the right people.
In the last several years, we at Technical.ly have continued to focus on how our newsroom can compete in this cluttered industry by leveraging the trust we have and aim to develop with hard to reach jobseekers in the communities we serve. We’re producing more content on the topic, and I’ve begun to do more speaking on the topic.
I’ve also been doing lots of reading and gathering of worldview, particularly in the last year. In cleaning out a notebook, I found a slew of trends and numbers I was poking around, so I decided to share them here.
Continue reading A look at the $23 billion Search and Placement industry
A version of this essay was published as part of my monthly newsletter a couple weeks back. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.
Earlier this year, I took a notecard from my desk and I wrote a short sentence.
It was a reminder, something I look at nearly everyday. This sentence was what I was working toward, in the simplest, most distilled form I could manage then. I then started telling my coworkers what that sentence was, so they knew my motivation, what I stood for.
From my teenage years, I’ve always written these sorts of things, quotes and priorities and reminders. Some are high-minded (I’ve had a Lao Tzu quote in my wallet since undergrad) and others are about working smarter (Your Email Inbox is Not Your To-Do List). I cherish these things. I find they do help transform my mood and habits. They are genuinely for me but, of course, they’re acts of signaling too. I am saying to the world (and therefore reinforcing for me), “Hey, These are my priorities, World!” This comforts me. I have a plan to cope.
Continue reading What are you working toward?