Brake Fist. Hot Tea. Fannies.

The holorime, the hall or ham.

It’s sometimes vertiginous, seen as witty or a pity, good for giggles, awful for SEO.

The holorime is basically a very long perfect rhyme (where all syllables of two lines rhyme parallel in time).

It is easy to do, hard to master.

It differs from a mondegreen, where the mispelling is a direct consequence of misundersanding the actual meaning.

The mondegreen comes from author Sylvia Wright who, as a child, sang  a scottish ballad, thinking it ended with : “… slay the Earl Murray and Lady Mondegreen,” when it was in fact : “slay the Earl Murray and laid him on the green.” (Thanks to Malapropisms)

You can find many mondegreens on line, but one famous site is of course Kiss This

Now back to holorimes. Here’s my contribution. Where’s yours.

Brake Fist. hot tea. Fannies.

On the importance of phrasing

On the importance of phrasing.

(from the Goofs & Gaffes section)

Don’t stop believing.

His mother must be very proud.

Laser-like focus: maximum super-mega hyperconcentration power

As a translator and writer, I need to keep my eyes clean and my attention sharply aimed at adequately evoking images or relaying messages. As such, I like to use words—and syntax—that I feel are suited for the type of communication I am working on.

A great deal of my work is in communications, management and political administration. It is often a stern, arid environment where ideas, decisions, and thoughts are conveyed by people who are very busy. A lot of pundits who write on “serious” issues and topics have fully loaded schedules, are highly driven people who share their opinions on many platforms, namely, reports, blogs, newspaper columns, tweets, and so on. Most of them have not been trained in literature, nor do they have the time for thorough redaction.

But does prolificacy equate to proficiency? Well, of course, the answer is “not necessarily”. Of course. We could say that if practice makes perfect, if you repeat the same mistakes often enough, you’ll eventually make them perfectly. I’ve learned that one of the most sure-fire (efficient) ways to improve your writing was to read abundantly. OK. But if you read poorly written papers day-in and day-out (constantly), chances are that you are not going to do much better yourself.

What I do find fascinating is that, in an area such as politics, administration and overall corporate communications, vocabulary is so thin. In English, especially, significant words, the mot juste as it is, have all but been banned from the main discourse to make way for more methaporical terms, such as “laser-like focus”. This almost childish lexical behaviour has always been part of the English political and financial world, often filled with animal representations (e.g. lame duck session, bull vs bear market). By no means do I condemn it, although it does make French look dry in most of these instances.

What does get under my skin (irritate me), is that writers really go to great lengths to come up with simplistic, yet convoluted, unnecessary images to represent otherwise simple notions that everyone understands. Such as “laser-like focus”, which is just another, albeit punchier way to say To give the utmost attention to. Why in the world would one use the image of a laser (which I get is an extremely concentrated light beam) to replace that? How is that clearer?

Here, a microscopic quiz. Guess what these means. Well, if you’re middle management, you probably know already:

  • a) chewable chunks
  • b) low-hanging fruit
  • c) evergreening

Should we be talking about the “ether-like volatility” of the stock market, or the “TIE fighter-like maneuverability” of small government?

I don’t know. Maybe we should.

Here are a few fine links:

MBA Jargon Watch

HRM Guide article: Jargon Baffles Employees

The Weekly Gripe

Answers: a) project/workload/task segmentation, as to handle more manageable workloads; b) easily attainable goal, as a fruit that hangs at reaching distance; c) continued renewal

And finally, to loop the hook:

Vodpod videos no longer available.


If a fly flies, flies fly

Language. It’s a great conversation-starter.

“A fly flies, but flies fly”.

“Still moving”.

“Glue sticks”.

Really makes you think, doesn’t it? Not really. Nonetheless and moreover.

How about you? Got some?

Fame per clicks

Andy Warhol is well known for, saying, among other things, that, “in the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” I guess he meant that everyone could be world-famous.

With the advent of widespread and freely available user-generated and -distributed content, the notion of news worthiness is now in the user/consumers’ hands, not solely in those of business interests. In that regard, in order to potentially be seen or talked about by Burkinabés, Peruvians, Icelanders or Chinese folks alike, you only need to get yourself on the Web, preferably via a video camera lens. Great thing is, you don’t even need to own it or to be aware you are the subject.

Anything, and I mean anyone, has become either potential conversation fodder or filler. Just like torrent technology, the speed at which events (including non-events) are broadcast and to what extent depends solely on the willingness of users—the more users, the merrier—to share this information.Examples abound (Don’t tase me, Bro!, Mahir, Arctic Monkeys…). We might ponder and speculate about the reasons why, in this day and age, such a phenomenon can occur. But isn’t it simply because it can?

We now have this means of spreading information—this weapon of mass distribution, if you will—and no way of containing it.
This overflow of communication isn’t limited to the Web. Of course not. It wasn’t even started there. There have been for a long time many types of print, radio, and TV (mostly cable) channels that convey whatever people fancy. It’s just that the means to spread our name have become so readily available that only opposition, material circumstances or lack of interest can prevent us from being world-famous. Even more so, people’s fame is fueled by fame scavengers who themselves become famous by parasitizing others who are famous partly or entirely because of them. Chicken or egg?
The Web has become so central in the data exchange world that there are TV shows and magazines devoted to inform us of “what’s on” it. Which is weird: TV and magazines have given in to the success of their natural enemy, Internet. Today, if you get on the Web, you might bounce back on the small screen or the page without even trying. Great, huh! I guess it can be. Well, unless you’re the Star Wars Kid or a teenage girl that puts too much faith in the words “C’mon, Babe, trust me. I won’t show it to anyone, I promise”.

Once again, for your viewing pleasure…

How to give directions to an old Portuguese man (if you don’t speak Portuguese)

This series of posts is not at all about Portuguese men. It’s not on giving directions either. Well, actually it is.

The topic: Communications

Part One

Information transmission

Chapter One

The Thing and the Brrrr

Communication may not really be a question of speech, tongue, or even structured conventional forms of oral or written contact, something we often refer to as “language”. It may only be the simple transmission of information[1] on the basis of common grounds, of a shared understanding. So, could it purely be about getting something across?

Common grounds. Literally. Often times in life, the barest of necessities are resolved by pointing—or even nodding— to a direction we want someone else to look at. When we walk together, two by two or in group, we usually agree without talking on the course to take, turn by turn, street by street. In a real tangible way, we are acknowledging intent as well as communicating it.

Shared understanding. My mother is constantly saying “the thing” in her conversations, e.g., “We were down in Farnham and we saw the thing, you know… my god, it’s falling apart!” Somehow, I figure out really quickly what “the thing” is, or at least I have a fairly good idea of what it could be.

But this example is not about me, really. And it’s not about my mother either, although some would argue that everything is about my mother! It’s about why she does not feel the need to find the right words, why she is not compelled to make sure I know she is talking about the old Hotel on Main street rather than the very old Anglican church, which also happens to be on Main street.

We all do it. Constantly. In a certain way, we rely on others to take the snippets of information we give out by ways of speech, and connect them with pieces they have to gather with their senses and their memory. If I am in the living room with my girlfriend and I tell her “Did you feel that?” when there is a sudden cold draft in the apartment, she’s likely to answer one of two things, depending of her experience of the surroundings. If she did feel a gust of cold air, she might say “Yeah! Brrrr. Did you leave the door open?” But if she did not feel the chill, chances are she’ll answer “What are you talking about?” So, really, “success” of this communication relies on whether we shared the same experience.

[2]That’s why I just might add a “Brrrr” before “Did you feel that?” This “Brrrr” was uttered to let my dearest understand that I suddenly felt cold. I know it’s not a simple reflex, because I don’t say “Brrrr” when I’m alone watching cop shows. I shiver, I shrug my shoulders—though often times due entirely to David Caruso‘s unmatched side-acting abilities, but I don’t say “Brrrr”. I said “Brrrr” because I knew that she would interpret this as such. This “Brrrr” is hardly equivocal.

In many many situations, though, you do not want your signals, or your words to be interpreted, like “the thing”, because there is a risk of ambiguity. This is where accuracy is required. What depends on that accuracy can be trivial or the highest importance. By lacking accuracy, the ensuing confusion can go from plain annoyance (I swear I thought she meant “foot” massage!) to disastrous consequences (What do you mean, no WMDs?!). And that is why we need to identify, before hand, the purpose of our intervention and the type of information we are about to transmit. Which is what I will delve into next.

Next Chapter Two : What is the purpose of your call, sir?

[1] facts, desires, intent, feelings. Yes, information has feelings too.

[2] Award for the most Brrrrs in one single paragraph