language en The View From The Top <p></p><p>A co-worker of mine recently registered her displeasure with the term “the 30,000-foot view.”</p><p><em>The 30,000-foot view</em> is meant to invoke a sense of the big picture, to show how a situation might look from 30,000 feet in the air. The attempt here seems admirable: we do sometimes lose sight of the big picture when we get bogged down in the details.</p> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 17:30:00 +0000 Lael Ewy 38134 at The View From The Top The 'Binge' Paradox <p></p><p>The word <em>binge</em> is a paradox connoting both shame and pride.</p><p>The very same binge-drinking that is such a concern for parents and college administrators is, for certain students, something to brag about. Note the pyramids of empty beer cans that grace fraternity houses and the murky recollections of weekend benders bracketed with phrases like, “Oh my God, I was sooo drunk that night!”</p><p>That some don’t survive these adventures in besottedness doesn’t stop bingeing from happening, and may even increase the binge’s mystique.</p> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 17:30:00 +0000 Lael Ewy 37492 at The 'Binge' Paradox What Is 'Privilege?' <p></p><p></p><p>When Princeton student Tal Fortgang recently complained on <em>Time</em> magazine's blog that, as a white male, he had been repeatedly “reprimanded” to “check his privilege,” the Internet exploded in somewhat predictable ways.</p><p>I'll let you and Facebook explore what all is being said about <a href="">Fortgang's piece</a>, but the word <em>privilege</em> deserves some scrutiny.</p> Tue, 01 Jul 2014 17:30:00 +0000 Lael Ewy 36722 at What Is 'Privilege?' OnWords: Meeting Around The Bush <p></p><p></p><p>One language trait I've noticed recently is a peculiar use of the word “around.”</p><p>Someone might be describing a new organizational initiative and say, “Let's get together and have a discussion <em>around</em> the new viral marketing campaign.” What the person would have said prior to the <em>around</em> ascendancy is, of course, “Let's get together and have a discussion <em>about</em> the new marketing campaign.”</p><p>So what's all this about <em>around</em>—or rather around it? Or whatever?</p> Tue, 17 Jun 2014 17:30:00 +0000 Lael Ewy 36083 at OnWords: Meeting Around The Bush The Dangerous Assumptions of 'Excellence' <p></p><p>“Excellence” ranks right up there with terms like “professionalism” and “family values” as power terms, the vagueness of which is used to subject people to all manner of indignity and peonage.</p><p>“Excelle<em>nt</em>” we might lovingly associate with <em>Wayne's World</em> or <em>Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure</em>, in which it's a term of universal application to all things righteous, gnarly or dope. But that same universalism is exactly what makes “excellence” so dangerous.</p> Tue, 20 May 2014 17:30:00 +0000 Lael Ewy 34495 at The Dangerous Assumptions of 'Excellence' OnWords: Let Me Explain <p></p><p><em>'Splain</em>, as a contraction for “explain,” has long been with us, but I originally began to appreciate its comic potential in a creative writing workshop in graduate school. The inestimable Steve Johnson had submitted an uncharacteristically inscrutable poem, and after we all had contorted our minds trying to figure it out, we finally just turned to him and asked, “Steve, what in the heck does this even mean?” With total composure and deadpan wit, he replied, “I just write 'em. I don't 'splain 'em.”</p> Tue, 06 May 2014 17:30:00 +0000 Lael Ewy 34023 at OnWords: Let Me Explain Understanding Creativity <p></p><p></p><p><em>Creativity</em> is another one of those words that we throw around as if we know what we're talking about.</p><p>But we're fundamentally conflicted about creativity-- perhaps because, in practice, it's somewhat mysterious.</p><p>We'd all agree that creativity is about bringing new things into the world: new products, new ideas, new perspectives. We sometimes use "creativity” synonymously with words like “innovation” and “originality.”</p> Tue, 22 Apr 2014 17:30:00 +0000 Lael Ewy 33343 at Understanding Creativity Putting Humanity Back In 'The Market' <p></p><p>Maybe most remarkable about the term “the market,” is the incredible variety of ideas it invokes.</p><p><em>The market,</em> at its most mundane, conjures an image of a grocery store with its rainbow wash, the visual signatures of myriad brands all competing for our eyes, and for the dollars that follow. We also retain this cultural memory: the market as a place for basket-weavers and growers to hock their wares, for handmade rugs to rub up against stacks of kohlrabi.</p> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 17:30:00 +0000 Lael Ewy 32626 at Putting Humanity Back In 'The Market' OnWords: The Mass Production Of 'Product' <p></p><p></p><p>The word “product” is shifting.</p><p>One of my brothers overheard the following at a big-box retailer the other day: “We have various safety devices to keep <em>product</em> from falling on people.”</p><p>This use of <em>product</em> as mass noun stands in distinction to the term “a product,” a term identifying something as, well, <em>produced</em>.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 17:30:00 +0000 Lael Ewy 31991 at OnWords: The Mass Production Of 'Product' OnWords: Finding Meaning In The Grains <p></p><p>At one time, the word <em>granular</em> was almost always reserved for something physical or technical, for example, as a measure of the resolution of a photographic emulsion, or of how fine the sugar.</p><p>But recently, I’ve noticed <em>granular</em> used in office settings to indicate a level of detail that the speaker would rather avoid. It’s generally said with a certain tinge of disdain as well, something like, “Well, we could talk about that some other time, but we don’t want to get into the granular level here.”</p> Tue, 11 Mar 2014 17:30:00 +0000 Lael Ewy 31271 at OnWords: Finding Meaning In The Grains