Category Archives: Language

The four worst communication errors you can make

I’ve had some truly frustrating communications failures this week so I thought I’d compile a list of things you shouldn’t do. Because the internet loves lists. And you shouldn’t do these things. Unless you want to piss me off. Probably other people too. But other people didn’t really figure into my thinking. I just get really pissed off when people do these things to me.

1. When you’re asked a yes/no question, don’t waffle on with some rubbish that is neither yes nor no.

“Are you coming out with us tonight or not?”

“Well, I’m just reading this article, then I have to make a phone call and there was a show I wanted to watch…”

“SO FUCKING WHAT? DOES THAT MEAN YES OR NO???”

2. When you’re asked for more information with an open question, don’t give a yes/no answer.

“Where were you when we were having a meeting?”

“No.”

“What?”

“No, I wasn’t at the meeting.”

“I know that. What was the reason?”

“Yes.”

“What?”

“Yes, there was a reason.”

“Just piss off.”

3. Don’t give an answer that doesn’t help with the question. Even if your “answer” is factually correct, if it isn’t actually answering the question it’s useless.

“Does anybody know a good Mexican restaurant near Melbourne?”

“There’s a Chinese place in Sydney I really like.”

“What’s that got to do with a Mexican place in Melbourne?”

“I don’t like Mexican food.”

“Fuck off.”

4. When someone is using abstractions or giving an illustrative example, don’t obsess about taking it literally.

“This would be like if we were going to have a roast lamb dinner, bought all the ingredients but didn’t have an oven to cook it in”*

“I’m a vegetarian.”

“What?”

“I can’t eat the flesh of a lamb corpse – I’m a vegetarian.”

“We’re not really having lamb.”

“You should plan to roast the flesh of murdered animals without consulting with the group.”

“You shouldn’t ever eat anything I offer you. Because it will have poison in it.”

 

So whether it’s a professional setting, a social setting or communicating in a relationship, try to avoid these mistake. I know I’m not the only one driven crazy by them. As a bonus, here’s an old video abusing another type of person I can’t stand being in a discussion with – the factard. This is the sort of person who insists on derailing a conversation with a point that may be factually true but adds absolutely nothing to the conversation and stops others from communicating in any meaningful way.

 

 

*I have no idea what this is an analogy for – I made it up. It’s an illustrative example of an illustrative example. It’s example-ception. Don’t think about it too long – it will asplode you brain.

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Filed under General Angriness, Language

How to speak Oz – lesson one

With the Melbourne As One gathering for YouTubers fast approaching (December 1st for those who need reminding) I find myself with a lot to do.  I’m answering questions, still hopeful of securing some sponsorship, organising events for the days and working with the Burnet Institute who are running the World AIDS Day Concert which is also on at Federation Square on the same day.

But I need to do more.  Now that several people from overseas have confirmed the will be coming I have realised I need to help them.  With the local language.  Many of them assume they will be OK because they think they speak English.  Sadly, some will find they only speak American which is not the same thing at all.

Teaching these people to speak Australian (or Strine as it is know to academics) will not be an easy task.  But I am not daunted.  I will start with the basics and work up from there.  Todays lesson covers two things visitors absolutely must know:

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Filed under Language, Video Blogging

Trigger words for Mr Angry

Did you ever notice how we all seem to have trigger words that can have a massive effect on our moods and responses?  I’ve shared before how racists on YouTube set me off by phrasing their bullshit with some variation of “you have to agree that…”  Well, no dickhead.  I don’t have to agree with anything.  Least of all the incoherent ramblings of an unintelligent, insecure, pathetic racist.

Just before going on holidays, I discovered another set of trigger words that will make me unleash my most vicious attacks upon the perpetrator.  Namely, don’t say any variation of “no offense, but…” followed by something incredibly offensive unless you want to feel the full wrath of Mr Angry. 

One of the last videos I made before going to NZ was a response to a featured video on YouTube – I didn’t post it here because there was really no context for it on this blog.  The video I responded to was part of a series called “God Inc” that runs on the premise that Heaven is really run like an office with all the bureaucracy and petty jealousies that suggests.  A bit of a depressing though really.

I did a response as some of my demonic characters because the idea popped into my head and it seemed to fit.  The video has been viewed over 20,000 times since I posted it (average for me is a couple of hundred to a thousand views) so it was certainly a success for me.  The thing is, it was a rush job (just before my holiday) and the standard is honestly pretty bodgy even by my rather low standards.  And it got seen by thousands of dweebs who had never seen my stuff.

The first few comments were from my regulars who liked it but then the losers with nothing to offer the world but a fucked-up opinion started.  As is my usual way, I responded to nearly all of the comments, partly to thank the positive, partly to rip on the negative and partly because lots of comments gets you noticed on YouTube.  The more obnoxious the comment, the more obnoxious my reply.

The funny thing is, I couldn’t give a shit about these losers.  The fact that they feel compelled to spit out negativity when nobody is being negative towards them says way more about their pathetic lives than any insult I could deliver.  But I did save my worst bile for the one who said “No offense but this vid sucked.” 

Why the fuck do people say that before they say something offensive?  Are they that fucking stupid that they think they aren’t saying something offensive?  Are they stupid enough to think saying “no offense” excuses the offense?  Or are they so mind numbingly fucking stupid they don’t even know the meaning of the words “no offense”?

I decided this putz needed a lesson so I responded in kind with the most offensive thing I could think of:

“No offense, but your mother fucks truck drivers for 50c a throw.”

I suspect the irony of the response would be totally lost on him.  For those who want to see just how angry I can get, the full list of comments can be seen here:

Comments on re: God Inc

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Filed under Language, Video Blogging

Steve Irwin, Germain Greer and Jack Marx

Well, the death of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin has generated hysterical mourning at a level not seen since Princess Diana had her last car drive.  This idea of getting really worked up over the death of someone you don’t actually know has always made me a bit queasy.  Irwin was a very interesting bloke who did some amazing work both in entertainment and conservation, and his death was unfortunate and undeserved.  It was arguably only a matter of time until his rather dangerous lifestyle caught up with him but it’s still a bummer that it happened.

Then Germaine Greer decided to lob a hand grenade into the worldwide crowd of mourners with a newspaper column where she said among other things: “The animal world has finally taken its revenge on Irwin.”  She honestly didn’t say anything too outrageous in the piece but her timing sucked – to me it smacked of someone who is either utterly insensitive to the moods of others or someone who is so desperate for attention they do something that they know will generate a tsunami of negative attention for them (negative attention is better than no attention for some people).  Germaine being Germaine, she gladly went on a high-rating tabloid “current affairs” TV show defending her view which guaranteed her nationwide vilification.   

A day or so later, Jack Marx put an insightful piece on his blog completely skewering the hypocrisy of the situation.  Longer term readers may remember Marx as the writer who Russel Crowe attempted to recruit as his “inside man” – his mole in the world of journalism who would write positive stories about Rusty, particularly about his (shudder) music.  A job which I’m still open for, by the way Rusty.  Call me!  The relationship did not work out well for either of them although Marx got an interesting, if self-serving, article out of it.  One thing Mr Marx is not scared of is pissing people off.  

And I’d just like to round this off with the one piece of this whole circus that made me really angry.  Irwin’s producer held a press conference to give the details of what had happened.  In his statement he uttered one of the most egregious misuses of the term “ironically” it has been my misfortune to hear (another topic regular readers will know is important to me).  He said (I’m paraphrasing because I can’t find a transcript) that Irwin was filming for a show that would have been called something like “Ocean’s Deadliest Creatures” when he was killed, “ironically”.

NO!!!  Being killed while filming World’s Deadliest Anything is not ironic!  The title is bloody accurate!  It’s apt!  The one thing it isn’t is ironic!  It would be ironic if he was filming a show called “World’s Cuddliest and Friendliest Animals” and some cute fluffy bunny tore his throat out.  This is the real smear on Steve Irwin’s legacy, not anything Germaine Greer said.  I swear, anyone who says to me “isn’t it ironic how Steve Irwin died” is headed straight for intensive care.

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Filed under General Angriness, Language

Isn’t it Ironic?

Now, any regular readers will know I have a bit of a thing about proper language usage.  And if you don't know that, go read my archives.  Are you back?  Good.  As I was saying, I think proper grammar, word usage etc. is important.  I even get a little worked up about it sometimes.  Dare I say… angry.  Not as angry as some people, like this chap who wrote this piece for McSweeneys.

I read that when it was published back in 2003 and I've never forgotten it.  Way better grasp of the nuances of English than me.  Funnier too.  And angrier. 

One of the many things that has the capacity to make me angry is misuse of the term "ironic".  I don't get too worked up because I'm not too sure I always use it accurately.  The simplest dictionary definition is "An expression or utterance marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning."  In other words, the literal meaning of your words is the opposite of what you intend to convey.  But you also get into Socratic irony and dramatic irony and it really gets complicated.  I actually did research for this piece (besides reading McSweeneys) and found a piece, via Wikipedia, that is both an excellent explanation of irony and a lot of fun to read.  It's much better researched than anything I could do and also funnier.

Guardian Article: The Final Irony

Suffice to say, people are almost always wrong when they say "isn't that ironic?"  More often it's simply a coincidence or bad luck.  For instance, Alanis Morrisette's song "Ironic" doesn't contain a single example of true irony (is that ironic?)

Anyway, believe it or not, the whole reason that I started struggling with the proper use of irony was that I was thinking of George Bush.  I am continually appalled at the shit he gets away with.  Being a lefty, I start from a default position that a right-winger is going to piss me off but Bush even betrays traditional Republican values.  Not that I'm a fan of many traditional Republican values but it freaks me out that he pisses all over their core tenets like fiscal responsibility and small government and all the while he has these rabid cheerleaders asserting he can do no wrong.  Any pity the traditionalist who speaks up about this betrayal.  The goon squad are all over them, branding them disloyal and unpatriotic.

You could be a dyed-in-the-wool lifelong Republican but if you question the glorious leader, his slavering minions will rip you limb from limb.  And I get more than a little spaced at how quickly the baying mob can flip from championing a particular commentator to publicly eviscerating them because they dared to question Bush.  Not matter how self-evident their observation is, like, ummmm… he's a fuckwit.

To be fair, I can't nominate a conservative who actually called Bush a fuckwit.  I'm reading between the lines.

But there are signs Bush's most ardent supporters might ba about to turn on him.  It isn't about lying, it isn't about screwing up Iraq, it isn't about encouraging torture.  It's about immigration.  Bush seems like he's actually about to do something halfway decent regarding the millions of (mainly Mexican) illegal immigrants in the US.  In an acknowledgement that the economy is essentially dependent on these workers, he's trying to find a reasonable compromise.  And his "base" are turning on him over it.

So that's the point of this whole screed: Bush spends his whole tenure committing a seemingly endless cavalcade of incompetent and illegal acts and gets a free pass.  He attempts to do one halfway decent thing and his shrieking cheerleaders turn on him.

Is that ironic?

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Filed under Language, Politics

The Sad Case of the Abused Language

I've posted before about how angry it makes me when people use the wrong words but today I'm going for a variation on this theme.  I get equally angry when people misuse language, whether through laziness, stupidity or intent to deceive.

Let me explain with an example: How often have you heard someone say something along the lines of "Only a fraction of x end up with a successful y"?  Phrasing things like that is so damn lazy!  I want to shake people who talk about "fractions" with no further explanation.  Or better still, staple their mouth shut so they can't spout such meaningless crap any more.

Or maybe a few quiet words would suffice, like: "Listen, dickhead! Tell me what fraction or at least what sort of fraction.  99/100 is a fraction – unless you tell me otherwise I have no way of knowing whether the fraction you mean is closer to 1/100 or 99/100.  At least provide some sort of qualifier: less than 1/2, a small fraction, a tiny fraction.  I do believe most people use this phrasing out of laziness but there are definitely those who do it maliciously.

This is most often in media or political statements.  They use the empty statement of "only a fraction" to back up their point while glossing over the fact it's no backup at all – it doesn't mean anything!  More often than not, the truth behind this statement from a politician or some talking head pushing an agenda is:  "I'm talking crap, there's no actual evidence to back me up.  This thing I'm making a big scene about is actually not a significant issue.  I'm simply exploiting general ignorance and prejudice to further my own ends."

Another one that really ups my angry factor is the way stores advertise sales.  Their ads proclaim in big letters: SALE 50% OFF!  Then there is the fine print, words like "up to" and "selected items only".  Us poor suckers rush out to the store only to discover that the only item at 50% off is a pair of socks.  That sort of advertising is so close to a direct lie that these bastards should be doing jail time.  What is this "up to" bullshit that they get away with?  I mean 0% falls under "up to" 50%.

In fact, when I take over the world (don't forget, this will happen) all hyperbole will be banned from advertising.  And in all probability, advertising/marketing executives will all be publicly executed.  But no more of these deceptive ads.  Instead of terms that are so broad as to be meaningless they will have to be specific.  How many and/or what percentage of items are at the maximum discount?  What is the most common level of discount?  And if you advertise something good on sale you'd better damn well have it in stock when I get there.

Try the old "bait and switch" on me and I'll put your face through a fucking shredder!

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Filed under Language

A Roman Adventure

For those who wonder why the misuse of “decimate” makes me so angry, imagine the current misconception of the word’s meaning transposed to it’s origins.  I’m talking about a group of ten legionaries marching through hostile territory.  Suddenly *thwack* one of them is felled by an arrow. 

Brutus looks down at his fallen comrade and says “Oh no, we’ve been decimated.”  And his mate Cassius looks at the one dead guy… let’s call him Flavius, I think it helps the story come alive when the characters have names.  Not to mention I prefer to be on a first name basis with anyone living in my head. 

Anyway, Cassius looks down at Flavius and says: “What, that’s it?  One dead guy and we’re decimated?  Really?  I mean, the way everyone always goes on about being decimated I thought it would be way worse.  Of course, it didn’t work out too well for Flavius but this decimated thing isn’t too bad. 

“I used to lie awake at night worrying about us being decimated and now here we are, decimated, and nine out of ten of us are fine and dandy.” 

And yes, I’m sure Roman legionaries used words like “dandy”.

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Filed under Language