That’s Not A Word, It’s Not In the dictionary

a dictionary

Words, words, words...

A lot of people say this. A lot of people say this to me. I like to make up words once in a whiloccasion. So let me set the record straight.

If I said it and you understood it, it’s a word.

“How dare you say such a thing! Ms. So-and-so yelled at me in 4th grade for making up a word so I won’t let anyone else do the same!” you might be thinking. Well Ms. So-and-so was wrong about such-and-such.

First, let’s get rid of this phrase: “the dictionary.”

There is no one dictionary. There are many dictionaries. Different publications with different editions and different versions with different editors. They don’t have all of the same entries. They don’t all have the exact same definitions. Each dictionary serves a purpose and is edited as such. If you consult your Webster’s College Dictionary, it might not have complex medical terms. If you look up a word in your Writer’s Dictionary you might not find old slang.

Next, “That’s not a word.”

The first definition of word in the American Heritage Dictionary (notice that I specified the dictionary I referenced) is the following:

n. A sound or a combination of sounds, or its representation in writing or printing, that symbolizes and communicates a meaning…

If you look at other definitions from that or other dictionaries I’m pretty sure that you will not find any that says inclusion in a dictionary is a criteria for being a word. I’d like to call your attention to the end of the above definition: COMMUNICATES MEANING. Here’s more evidence:

The beauty of words is that we are all in control of them: everyone who is a competent speaker of a language is able and allowed to produce new words when needed and to alter the meaning of existing ones, and as long as grammatical rules are followed these new words will be understood even by people who have never heard them before. – “What is a word?”

I’ll repeat one of my above statements. If I said it and you understood it, it’s a word.

You now have my permission to create words. Others create new words all the time. That’s how English evolves, it’s not an inflexible set of items and rules to govern them… no matter what Ms. So-and-so said. Language is a tool for communication; as many tools are it can be fun to use. So go have fun. Find a locution for the nonce. Happy neologizing!

Any questions? Feel free to share words you invented in the comments!

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A Patron By Any Other Name Would Still Give You Money

Cash Register

Photo courtesy of flickr

I’ve been thinking lately that the term Patron to describe a customer of an arts organization sounds a little precious. I don’t know that there’s anything wrong with it, but I’m wondering what would happen if companies started using a different word.

The American Heritage Dictionary has several definitions for patron, these are the relevant ones:

  • n. One that supports, protects, or champions someone or something, such as an institution, event, or cause; a sponsor or benefactor: a patron of the arts.
  • n. A customer, especially a regular customer.
  • n. A noble or wealthy person in ancient Rome who granted favor and protection to someone in exchange for certain services.

Some people just come to see a play. Once. Are they a patron? Is there anything wrong with calling them a customer? I realize that customer connotes a transactional relationship. Are we trying to make them feel important and conjure an image of definition #3 or are we distracting ourselves from the fact that there is a transactional relationship where they exchange money for entertainment?

I have no answers, I just bring questions.

What do you think? Is there another word you use? Am I wasting brain power on a word that works just fine?

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Standardized Testing Sucks, A High School Story

Exam

Photo courtesy of flickr

I’ve been thinking a lot about education lately. Formal education, about how I don’t like it. Informal education is great. If you know me, you know that I love learning. I’m quite the autodidact. But whenever the state has been involved in that process, it rarely went well for me.

I’ll be blogging more thoughts on education soon. But first, a short story.

While I was in 10th grade California had the bright idea to require me to take the high school exit exam. A test which all students must pass before being allowed to graduate.

I answered many questions about math, science, English. One essay prompt asked what the best pet for a child is. I answered (in 500 words or more): a younger sibling. I passed easily. Most of my peers did too.

I passed the High School EXIT exam in 10th grade. The next two years of high school I continually asked, “Why the hell am I still here?

Do you have any silly school stories?

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Consider The Source Part 2, or I Approve This Message

It’s not just breakfast that people are lying to you about.

We The People Don't Like Looking Things Up

Photo courtesy of Flickr

This isn’t meant to be about any political party in particular (for serious), but rather of our culture and current system of electing officials.

Just as you should be careful of believing messages from someone trying to sell you something, I’d advise you to be wary of what political candidates say. Their goal is to get elected. They say things that will make you want to vote for them. “We need to [fill in the blank]!”

Yes. We do need to [fill in the blank]. How do your policies make that happen. Do your policies make that happen? It’s possible that what you’re suggesting has been done in the past and failed miserably. But I don’t know. I haven’t looked it up.

Do research. Please.

I decided to to a little research a while back about what constitutes false advertising. My first stop was the ever-helpful Wikipedia. I found this nugget:

“All commercial acts may be deceptive, not just advertising, but noncommercial activity such as advertising for political candidates is not subject to prosecution under the FTC Act.”
- (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_advertising)

Politicians can straight up lie in campaign ads and not not face legal consequences. Just thought you should know.

Heard any good lies lately?

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Consider The Source, or Part of This Complete Breakfast?

In today’s world of mass media absolutely everywhere, a huge amount of the messages we’re getting are marketing messages. People trying to sell us something. Sometimes we take what we hear and believe it is fact. It makes sense to us.

Do research. Please.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

For eggxample (pun always intended), eggs are a popular food. You can find them in a lot of foods, or as the main part of your omelette. From our culture and education, we have certain assumptions. The one in this case is “fat/cholesterol is bad.” So someone one day says “what if I can give someone an egg without the fat or cholesterol?” Tada, Egg Beaters is born. Consumers say “I like eggs, I don’t like fat or cholesterol. BUY!” I don’t know that egg beaters as a brand are as popular in foods anymore, but there are tons of restaurants that offer “healthy” versions of their breakfasts by using only egg-whites.

It makes sense, right? Eggs = good. Cholesterol + Fat = bad. Egg whites = eggs – (cholesterol + fat)

The point here is that the consumer never stopped and considered that people have been eating eggs for thousands of years and doing just fine. Does the man with all the money in his pockets really know better than nature? Turns out whole eggs are better for you!

So now there are a lot of people going around thinking they’re eating healthier because they’ve bought into the message of a smart marketer.

The food industry is full of these. Sugary cereals are “part of this complete breakfast.” I heard that every day as a kid from ads. Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, Cinnamon Toast Crunch… but I just ate them because they tasted good. Lots of sugar, minimal nutrients. A healthy complete breakfast is probably more along the lines of a whole-egg and vegetable omelette, and some real fruit.

“Milk, it does a body good.”

Does it? I’ll let you look that one up.

If you’re brain isn’t too fried… what are other messages out there that you see people buy into as fact?

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Toward A Tipping Point

I’m normally a calm, serene, and even-tempered person. I like to take long walks to relieve stress. I also normally try to avoid making public comments about politics. But the more I see in the news, the more I am angered, amazed, and appalled.

I am angered by bills that are considered on the senate floor; I am amazed by local and state governments taking away constitutional rights of their citizens; I am appalled by irrelevant issues bickered about by the public, media, and presidential candidates.

I won’t point a finger of blame, nor will I claim that I have a solution. But as I observe, as I listen my shoulders tense. My jaw tightens. My fists clench.

What is to be done? I don’t think I can walk this off.

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Thanks

To everyone out there that reads my blog
To my friends I see all the time
To my friends who I don’t see nearly enough
To anyone who makes me smile
To everyone who gives me hugs
To all the people I talk to online
To all the cool people online
To authors of awesome blogs I read
To the creators of great art
To the creative teams of shows I saw
To teachers
To writers
To people that are still reading this post
To the many, many others that I’m forgetting
To you

THANK YOU.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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I Feel Good, I Knew That I Would

You know what feels awesome? ACTING. REAL ACTING. It’s something I haven’t done in a while.

I’m in a play now, by the way. Come see it if you live anywhere near it because it’s gonna be awesome.

Let’s back up. When I said real acting I don’t mean that any film or other projects I or other people have done aren’t real acting… because I’ve done some of that. I was also in two plays last fall. But this play, Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol by Tom Mula is the first acting I’ve done in two years that I can really sink my teeth into.

You know… table work, vocal excercises, dialect work, lots pf physicality, and plenty of memorizing to do. This week is the 1st of 4 weeks of rehearsal and I’m already loving it.

I’m wondering how the hell I went so long without it. And yes, I I directed some stuff, did some other creative projects here and there, did a hell of a lot of marketing and theatre admin work.

But I’m an ACTOR! I’m a clown. A physical actor. A singer.

I need to be reaching with my body, raising my voice, using my imagination.

WHY HAVEN’T I BEEN DOING THAT!?

You know what I get to do now? Play. I’ll say it again. PLAY. I’m in a play, I get to play. You know what one of my mantras is? PLAY. I need to play or I get depressed. Now I get to play. And for whatever reason it had to happen after I temporarily (more on this another time) had to move back to San Diego.

SO GOOD, SO GOOD, I GOT YOU.

What is it that you’re not doing right now that you want to? Has this ever happened to you?

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Change, Something You Can Depend On

Change

Change for the better. It's better if I have more change.

It hasn’t even been an entire year since I blogged about my last website redesign. In it, I say

Websites just seem to get old pretty quickly for me.

No kidding. I then go on to mention my redesign of the Coeurage Theatre Company website which I completed (but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been constantly tweaking) about a year ago.

But I might not feel so good about it at the end of this year.

I know myself so well. That website is, indeed, starting to look old to me. But I’m gonna hold out on that one for another year. The company has patrons and company members that depend on it for info. And they are probably just now getting used to it.

My site, on the other hand is all about me. So I can change it if I want to. So I did. And now I’d like to bring up some of the questions I asked in that post…

Do you feel the same way about your website? Or more generally, do you feel that way about any of the things you create?

2

The Netflix Farce Continues

It all started in July when, out of the blue, Netflix increased their prices, handled it very poorly, and really pissed people off.

Then last month, they apologized — and changed things again and pissed more people off.

Price hike, then company split, and now…

Sounds like Netflix started listening to their customers. Which tells me that they didn’t put as much thought into the Netflix/Quikster split as they wanted us to think they did. Somewhere along they way they figured out that what’s good for their business model isn’t worth the cost of a big F YOU to loyal customers.

Now that they’ve admitted they didn’t think through the whole Quikster split, I want to know why. The split would have benefitted them by cutting losses, streamlining processes, cheaper licensing rights for streaming since they probably pay on a per subscriber basis… but how come no one listened to the guy (assuming that there was one smart enough to do so) that said “But won’t this piss off all our customers? How can we do that to them and not offer more value at the same time?”

I could be wrong, but my first thought is ego. “We’re too big to fail. We’re a market leader in what we do so no matter what happens people will stick with us because we’re the best.” Oh, by the way, Blockbuster Total Access now includes plans that includes blu-ray and game rentals for no extra charge, as well as a streaming library that is quickly growing. I also get some streaming titles included with my Amazon Prime account.

So now they send this message with their tail between their legs, but without apology. On the plus side, they did mention that they’re adding more titles. FINALLY! SOMETHING ABOUT INCREASING VALUE TO THE CUSTOMER. That’s all I ever wanted, Netflix.

Actually, I also want you to add more streaming titles to the Martial Arts section.

Do you think we’ve heard the last of Netflix? What do you think will happen next as their competition increases?

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