Archive for September, 2012

September 26, 2012

NewB vs. Noob

I had heard neither term until recently when my 8 year old son used the word “noob” (also spelled nub).

My assumption was, that noob is like newb is like newbie – somebody who is new to something and still learning the skill (often computer games, especially when dealing with young boys).  However, that isn’t the case, I  have come to understand.   Newbs/newbies are different from noobs/nubs in the following respect:  whereas newbies are new to something and hence not very good at it they are willing and able to learn and improve.  Noobs however, are hopeless cases, they are bad at something – or to use a popular slang term – they suck at something but no amount of training will ever make them good at it.  Lost cases, pretty much.

The term is very much a kid/young people slang term and unfit to be used at the office or in a meeting.  The exception here is newbie which isn’t demeaning or negative and is a somewhat cute term for beginner.

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September 24, 2012

Dog Days

The dog days of summer are over for this year – at least here in the Northern hemisphere, down south, they will be coming – soonish.

Enjoying the dog days of summer, pic: greensburggreentown.org

The hottest, most sultry days of summer a referred to as the dog days (of summer).  First I was thinking the expression had to do with real dogs, as in the old saying “only Englishmen and mad dogs …” which is a joking reference to the apparent habit of Englishmen to run around during the hottest hours of the day wherever they are, say India, or the Congo or Tunisia.  Mad dogs are apparently share the same pastime.

anyways, it appears that the dog days go further back in time than Englishmen and date back to the Romans, who referred to Sirius as the Dog Star.  The Dog Days originally were the days when Sirius rose jaround sunrise.  This is no longer true, though, be cause of the precession of the equinoxes.  The Romans apparently sacrificed a brown dog at the beginning of the Dog Days to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather.

September 21, 2012

Pull Rank

Some people at the office are driving me crazy and despite the fact that I always try to bring about decisions in a consensus kind of way I was getting angry about all the nonsense and was thinking to myself: “This is how it is going to be – and if I have to pull rank I will.”

Ugly and made especially for demonstration purposes by me.

Pull rank is the critical phrase here.  It means that one uses ones position of power to make others do what one wants them to do.  In my case to never ever use pink in a excel data graph in a company presentation again.  Asked too much?  I didn’t think so.  If it isn’t obvious (especially when looked at in combination with the corporate orange), then I have no other option than pulling rank.

Pulling rank is normally not the most efficient way of getting things done – at least in my experience.  Asking politely often gives better results.  However, there are times when it is the way to go and – if used diligently – to get the desired results – and fast.

So I am going to pull rank on that pink thing and while I am at it on purple and an assortment of other colors also, as well as weirdo gradients and shadings, shadows, glows and reflections.
There you have it!

September 19, 2012

Bicycles

Every year I come back from a summer in Europe to find things changed (and prices for staple foods up).  Last year it was the local Borders bookstore that, along with all others in the nation, was about to close and during its last days of “final final everything must go sale” offered mainly fluffy blankets made of shiny synthetics and left over shelving units.  This year it was the inexplicable disappearance of your local chain Mexican food place which we actually quite liked.  We still find ourselves saying on Sundays “lets go to Baja Fresh” to then add “oh, no.  It’s closed, darn.”  (of course we only say darn because of your son, else stronger language would be used).

Ways to go before Silicon Valley looks anything like this, pic: blog.brothercycles.com

This year I came back to a better change: bike paths have appeared.  Nothing like in Germany or Holland but there are bike paths now.  Along busy 4 lane city streets which are pretty much suicidal to ride on, bike paths that suddenly start and just as suddenly stop leaving you to wonder whether you are supposed to just disappear or have a friend with a car pick you up or what.  But bike paths never the less.  And I have actually seen people ride on them: few and tentatively and quite fearful – understandably.  But it is surprising and good.  This is how it starts.  I don’t expect our silicon Valley suburb to ever look like Amsterdam but every little but helps!

September 17, 2012

Much ado about nothing

yes, it is the title of a Shakespeare play – as we all know, at least now but the phrase “much ado about nothing” is also used in everyday language.  There it is used in situation where a great deal of fuss is made over something of very little importance or relevance.

The word ado dates back to Shakespeare who first used it in Romeo and Juliet to mean business or activity which is still the same as the modern day use “a lot of activity over nothing”.

Here are a few examples for the usage of the phrase:

Much ado about nothing at that maeeting, pic: wvu.acm.org

“What was that important home owner’s meeting all about?”

“Somebody had repeatedly parked in the wrong parking spot upsetting some people terribly.  Much ado about nothing if you ask me as there are enough parking spaces.”

“Why was Shirley so upset yesterday?”
“much ado about nothing, really, she couldn’t find her favorite necklace and convinced herself that the cleaning lady must have stolen it, but she found it in some box in her jewelery drawer – as always.”

It is a useful phrase that expresses mild criticism and a certain weariness and tedium with the behavior of the people who create much ado about nothing but isn’t strong or insulting enough to be avoided.

September 15, 2012

Upper Hand

This phrase is read this morning in the newspaper in connection with the current unrests in Libya, Egypt and Yemen.  It is an interesting one, actually quite obvious what it means in the context of most sentences – to have /get /keep /regain the upper hand means to have /get /keep /regain a dominant position, the position of power, the advantage over.

The little guy on the right has the upper hand – at least so far.

The phrase is used widely, in sports a team can have the upper hand over another, in war or in politics one group can have the upper hand over the other and at home mom has the upper hand – at least that is what I tell my son.

The origin of the term seems to go back to a game:  a player grabs a stick with his/her hand the next one puts his hand on top and the first one on top of that and so they go until they reach the end of the stick.  Whoever manages to squeeze in the last hand wins.  Apparently this method was also used – or maybe is -on playgrounds for selection of impromptu baseball teams, the captain who has the upper hand gets to choose the first player for his team from the group of kids wanting to play.

September 13, 2012

Moral High Ground

pic: wrongcards.com

“Taking the moral high ground” is an expression you might hear used in discussions about controversial topics where ethics/morals play a role.  I realize that a discussion about different baseball teams or the advantages of certain cars over others can be controversial as well, but the opportunity to take/claim/seize the morale high ground are less abundant in these situations.

The clearest definition I found (and I found a bunch of confusing ones) is the following: The moral high ground, in ethical or political parlance, refers to the status of being respected for remaining moral, and adhering to and upholding a universally recognized standard of justice or goodness.”

And that, I might add, despite the fact that this position might not be the most personally advantageous one could possibly take.  The phrase implies a critique of other, less moral positions and a person who takes the moral high ground may come across as a bit of a snob.

I was looking for an example and only found ones pertaining to politics, seems that field is ripe with moral high ground but remains in dire need for it.  So here is one:

“Under the leadership of President Bush and Vice president Cheney, the United States has given up the moral high ground that we used to occupy as an international leader.” Marty Meehan 

September 11, 2012

Dirty words

dirty words, no longer just the usual suspects and now featuring what used to be honorable words like government and liberal, pic: http://new.exchristian.net/2011/09/dirty-words.html

In 1972 the comedian George Carlin defined seven “dirty words” – offensive or indecent words – that could not be used on TV.  To this day most of the words on Carlin’s original list remain taboo on American television and are bleeped out should they happen to escape somebody.

What these seven words are I leave up to your imagination or the power of a Google search or – as a shortcut – the clicking on the following link.

If that was it, this wouldn’t be much of a post but things have become a little more complicated as new “dirty words” in the second sense of the word – namely ” things regarded with dislike or disapproval” – are added all the time.  Good old terms like “government” and “liberal come to mind.  I thought of this as a rather recent development but at least for liberal I found an article complaining about this 10 years ago (here).  It is still quite unclear to me how liberals could let that happen, especially considering the definition (type define Liberal into Google) “Open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values.” – who wouldn’t want to be that?  And who would want to be the opposite (that would be conservative then): “closed to new behavior or opinions and unwilling to let go of traditional values”.

Government as a dirty word goes even further back, it has it roots in the 60s but the person who made this way of thinking popular was Ronald Reagan in the 80s.  Here is a NPR article about this topic.

The worst of all dirty words appears to be atheist.  But that is a long story and deserves a separate blog post.

September 9, 2012

Egads

No swearing allowed, “egats1” should be alright, pic: ielanguages.com

I haven’t heard that in a while and when I read it in a blog the other day I thought “wow, that is a good one and so quaint!”

One uses the expression “egads!” in place of another swear word or expression of profanity which would be much worse or offending.  In polite conversation, or in business it is rarely opportune to swear or use profanities and so a word with a reduced level of objectionable quality might just be what is needed.  especially since people will generally know what you really want to say and will understand that you feel rather strongly about that topic.

The good old “egats” is said to derive from the expression “oh, god” – itself not a profanity but in a society that is so sensitive to the slightest hint of disrespect against religion (at least some) still not something to be said lightly, casually or frequently.

Other such words include “shoot” for the good old “sh..” – you get it,  frigging or flipping  for the f-bomb, and heck for hell.  Examples are abound: “let’s get the heck out of here”, “Shoot, it’s starting to rain and I forgot the flipping umbrella.”

If you want to check out an example for egads have a look at the blog I found it in.

September 7, 2012

Splitting Hair

And I don’t mean the literal splitting of the ends of hair when they get to dry and need a trim.  But while we are on that topic that conditions seems to be called Trichoptilosis.  Greek of course, tricho = hair and ptilosis = falling out of the eyelashes.  But that was an aside.

In the non-literal sense it means to focus on and argue about small, tedious details, to concentrate on tiny, unimportant details to find fault with something.  Splitting hair implies an element of being pedantic and overly precise.

As always I cannot resist an example that mentions Daniel Craig and so here is an example for splitting hair from Casino Royale (link here):

In the James Bond book “Casino Royale,” Bond sips a martini and tells a bartender, “Excellent…but if you can get a vodka made with grain instead of potatoes, you will find it still better.” He then adds, “Mais n’enculons pas des mouches.” This phrase means “But let us not split hairs” in French.  (the again the phrase might not even be in the movie – just the book.  Never mind.)

It is used in the negative form “let’s not split hair” to express that one does not want to argue about minutiae.