Posts Tagged ‘English language’

The Late English Language

Posted in General on May 20th, 2010 by Eugene Finerman – 7 Comments

In case you missed the obituary….

             POSITION TITLE:

Director, Enterprise Communications 
REPORTING TO:
Assistant Vice President
Corporate Relations
CORPORATE PROFILE:
The Allstate Corporation
Northbrook, IL
The Enterprise Communications function (in the Corporate Relations Department) works to strengthen Allstater engagement and drive alignment with Allstate’s corporate priorities. It accomplishes its work through a talented team of communication professionals and a best-in-class enterprise communications system – with cutting edge and interactive vehicles and timely and strategic content.
The objective of the Enterprise Communications function is to:
  • Serve as a catalyst for culture change throughout the organization
  • Provide strategic counsel to executives re: Allstater engagement, consistent execution of customer experiences and internal reputation building
  • Ensure employees have a clear line of sight between their accountabilities and our corporate strategy and vision
  • Drive understanding and alignment of Allstate’s vision, strategies and tactics with employees and agency owners, and to embed these principles in actions
  • Improve Allstate’s reputation with internal stakeholders through strategic communications designed to enhance employee and agency owner engagement for Allstate’s vision, priorities and strategies
  • Oversee communication channels for effectiveness and efficiencies
  • Enable free-flow of information and dialogue throughout the company (up, down, sideways, outside in.)
AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY:In alignment with corporate goals, specific responsibilities for the Director, Enterprise Communications will include:
  • Enterprise Communications Strategy development, integration and execution including specific work streams to inform and engage Allstate employees and agency owners with Allstate’s vision and strategy

             Ongoing delivery of Allstate and industry news, strategies and information

  • Proactive management of emerging technology, social media and traditional communication vehicles
  • Cross-functional integration with business units, Marketing, Government Relations, Investor Relations, etc.
  • Developing and implementing best-practice internal stakeholder research to understand employee perceptions, alignment and expectations
  • Embedding Allstate’s vision across the enterprise to drive understanding, and enhance loyalty, employee alignment and engagement with enterprise values, purpose and business goals
  • Communications consultation with Allstate leadership on business actions and decisions
  • Ensuring successful implementation of Allstate’s Living Archives
  • Building and developing a best-in-class Enterprise Communications team

Let me summarize this:  the Enterprise Director will enterprise the enterprise.  You also may be required to feed the living archives. (Imagine the poor soul who has been ordered to memorize this job description.)

 The greatest threat to intelligible English is not immigrants or slackard youths: their pidgin mutations actually add a vigor that keeps a language alive.  No, the danger to English is from those who use language as a cryptic incantation, whose obscurity presumably measures its importance. 

We have come to expect this verbal opacity from government: bureaucrats would rather you didn’t know what they meant.  MBAs try to avoid the intelligible, for fear it might be incriminating.  Sociologists offer jargon when they have nothing to say.  Of course, the Human Resources, in its crusade to suppress any hint of joy and light in the world, torture language into an impenetrable code of verbational nounalizations.

Of course, if the Enterprise Director gets to wear a  Starfleet uniform, who wouldn’t want the job.

p.s.  Let’s not forget the historical significance of this day:  http://finermanworks.com/your_rda_of_irony/2008/05/20/mitre-makes-righter/

Adjective Orgy

Posted in General, On This Day on January 18th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – 11 Comments

January 18th

Roget's hand finishedOn this day in 1779, Peter Roget was born/spawned/ejected. In the course of his life/existence/happening, Roget distinguished himself as a scholar and inventor/polymath man/Victorian know-it-all. A doctor by profession, he wrote a scientific study on tuberculosis/consumption/how to kill a Bronte. As a mathematician, he invented the logarithmic slide rule/mechanical analog computer/nerd sword. Today, however, we best know him for his hobby/avocation/obsessive compulsive disorder. He/Dr. Roget/Pedantic Pete liked to make lists.

One of his favorite diversions was categorizing words by their synonyms. The English language certainly could keep him busy, being a linguistic hodgepodge of barbaric German, Norwegian-accented French, second-hand Greek, and whatever the Empire chose to plagiarize from the natives. (The Hindi word veranda does sounds more charming than the Middle English porch or its pompous Latin forebear portico). In fact, the English language had become an empire in itself–with an unrivalled vocabulary. It had twice as many words as German; of course, each German word was three longer than its English equivalent. (And the disparity continues today; there now are some 500,000 words in English, while only 180,000 in German.)

Upon his retirement in 1840, Dr. Roget dedicated himself to compilating his lexicon/trivia/idiosyncracies. He called his work a thesaurus which in Greek means either treasury or god lizard. (His lists evidently did not include embarrassing Greek homophones.) His masterpiece was finally published in 1852 under the title “Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases Classified and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition.” For some reason–such as a shorter lifespan in the 19th century–readers preferred to call the book “Roget’s Thesaurus”.

And where would we modern writers be without Roget’s guide/terminology/onomasticon/cheat notes?

Unintelligible Excellence

Posted in General on August 11th, 2008 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

Three years, I went to our local movie theater with the intent of seeing “The Wind That Shakes Barley“, an acclaimed Irish film that relates (read this with  a brogue) “The Troubles.” The owner and manager of this theater knows me to be a fan of fine foreign films–and a loyal customer, so he made a point of warning me about this movie. Yes, the film was excellent but its dialogue was authentically Irish-English and an unintelligible mumble. The manager said that he had seen the film twice and still could not understand half of the dialogue. Under normal–masochistic–circumstances, I would have braved the Gaelic din, but it seemed unfair to bewilder my wife. We saw another film–which I cannot recall.

However, if you wait long enough and pay a fortune for cable television, you will have the chance to see any movie that you missed the first time around. “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” was broadcast last week, and I finally saw–and heard–it. To be honest, I might as well have watched a silent movie. The dialogue defies comprehension.  Ten minutes before the film’s end I deciphered that the two main characters were brothers. Of course, many silent movies were excellent; and so is this. The emotions and the conflicts of Ireland in 1920 are powerfully conveyed.

Ironically, the dialogue is not completely unintelligible. The bad guys speak clear English because that happens to be their nationality. In fact, one Anglo-Irish aristocrat (and complete bastard) possesses such a melodious diction that you would want to hear him recite Shakespeare before he is so deservedly gunned down.

When kidnapped by the IRA, the aristocrat sneers that Irish independence would only lead to a priest-infested rule. If you know Irish history–or have seen “The Magdalene Sisters”–you might concede the truth of his comment. But if the Irish lived under repressive Catholicism, at least that was their choice. Self-determination allows a people to construct their society based on their own values and prejudices. Yes, they even have the right to be myopic, backwards or parochial, and it is not the prerogative of a more advanced society to impose itself. My Judean ancestors did not appreciate Rome’s “improvements”, and the Spanish rebelled against Napoleon’s Enlightenment.  I am sure that you can think of more recent examples.   The natives always prove ungrateful for the foisted gifts of the superior power.

That is one lesson that the “primitive society” teaches the civilized, but the civilized never seem to learn.