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Grammar Language Lifestyle

Idioms Away and Dialect Demagoguery!

I spent a couple of years living in Cambridge, England where I learned to speak British English and quickly came to realize Americans speak an entirely different dialect. I came to enjoy noting language differences and sharing my discoveries with my supervisor at work, Dr Andrew Lacey (the Brits don’t use periods or “full stops” after titles) who patiently listened to me and even smiled a few times.

Full disclosure: Andrew was completing a Ph.D. in history at the time. He wanted to dedicate his first book, about the religious cult that sprang up after Charles I was executed, to his wife. But she made it understood that she wasn’t interested in getting some bugger-all dedication “to my supportive loving wife” etc. However, she reportedly enjoyed the dedication I constructed for Andrew:

“To Vanessa who, unlike Charles, did not lose her head.”

I am extremely proud of that dedication and the idiom behind it.

Book: The Cult of King Charles the Martyr by Andrew Lacey
Charles I, who lost his head.

It’s not that Vanessa wasn’t supportive of the book, which came out of Andrew’s dissertation on poor King Chuck. It’s just that she didn’t have much to do with the research other than accompanying Andrew to many, many sites throughout England Charles had visited, and consumed a lot of tea and pudding along the way. (The things people do for love.) Also, she hated the little wifey image so many academicians’ spouses still had at the time. Fair enough, as Brits say.

Brit Speak is Fun!

At times, everything sounded like an idiom I didn’t understand. Very often I got a little hung up trying to comprehend what people were saying to me.

A good example is a waiter who asked if I would like spotted dick for dessert. I’m sure I gaped at him until it became clear that spotted dick is what Americans call cake (“pudding”), with raisins and served with cream. It’s actually quite delicious in spite of having a name that sounds like an STD.

There was also the time when a colleague asked me if I had a rubber. “What makes you think I have rubbers today?” I asked, thinking he wanted what, my galoshes? (I was pretty sure he wasn’t asking for a condom.) It was sunny that day. Turned out the guy needed an eraser. To, you know, rub out what he wrote.

Memorable words from the Brit dialect

There are many Brit-words I enjoyed, in no small part because they were so interesting to me. Here are a few:

  • Bolshie, meaning uncooperative like the Bolsheviks.
  • Bonnet, the hood of a car. My first trip to the auto repair shop was interesting, to say the least, when the mechanic asked me to open up my bonnet. I wondered if this was some kind of odd way to proposition a person.
  • Boot, the trunk of a car. Vanessa once invited me to a boot sale, where I thought I’d get some real Wellies but it ended up being a kind of swap meet.
  • Bugger, which can be used in any number of situations where cursing is needed.
    • Buggering” refers to anal sex. While I was in England, there was a huge debate about decriminalizing gay sex. I listened to a debate over this on the radio. One outraged MP (Member of Parliament) kept yelling at his opponent that “buggering is illegal!”
    • Bugger all” means nothing.
  • Duck, or dearie. Andrew sometimes came to work and called out, “Good morning, ducks!” (This was not a #MeToo moment.)
  • Infant school, or early elementary and preschool. Whenever I heard this, I pictured newborns sleeping in their car seats in nice, neat rows. Actually, “infant school” would make an excellent idiom for people training to work for the Trump White House.
  • Pissed, meaning drunk–nothing to do with mood.
  • Piss and wind = all talk and no action, a clever idiom.
  • Tea often refers to a snack. You don’t even have to drink tea to have tea.

Arizonan English, a Mini-Dialect

I didn’t have too much trouble with the dialect here in Arizona, which gets winter visitors from all over North America who want to escape cold weather and baseball fans who want to see their teams play in the spring training Cactus League. Phoenicians sometimes find themselves puzzling over what East Coasters are saying to them.

Arizona is home to cricks and lots of ruff repairs

My own experience includes wondering why a friend was talking about replacing the “ruff” on his house.

The ruff? A ruffle design? Is he talking about his dog? No, he was talking about the roof.

And people here love the “cricks” that appear after a storm. Crickets? No, creeks.

Here’s how I keep it straight:

“It rained so much, the crick nearly reached the ruff!”

But it doesn’t rain in Arizona, right? Well, it does when we have a monsoon season, which happens during the summer months. And it gets humid–it’s not always a dry heat. In fact, it’s humid when the temps are highest.

The ruff guy also used to talk about mini-monsoons during the winter months and we did have a particularly rainy January this year. Bless his heart.

Haboob or dust storm
Big haboob over Loop 101

One word that was entirely new to me when I moved here is haboob, for the dust storms that often kick up during dry monsoons. The word comes from Arabic and means “blowing furiously.” As I once put on Facebook, we have big haboobs in Arizona. Heck, they make national and international news.

Bye, bye pizza pie

My son worked for Dominos during his senior year in high school. One night, someone called in an order for a “pie” from a customer, who I’m told had a “heavy Philadelphia accent.” The call was taken by the assistant manager on duty, a young woman who grew up on the Navajo Nation. She completely misunderstood the caller, whereas my son was mystified by the request. Dominos, of course, makes pizza.

“Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t have pies here,” she sweetly explained.

“You don’t have pies?!”

“No, I wish we did. I’d love to spend my days baking pies!”

Clearly, this generation doesn’t know the song That’s Amore, featured in the great movie Moonstruck.

That’s OK. I don’t watch PewDiePie — I’m way too old to be with the Squad Fam.

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Copy and Paste Confusion

It started about a year ago: Facebook friends began asking to copy and paste, not “just” share. Or even, don’t share at all!

At first, I ignored this advice and continued to share. Part of the reason is that I usually read my Facebook feed through an app on my Samsung tablet. It doesn’t let me copy and paste.

I’ve been trying to sort out this copy and paste situation. Does it give a post more exposure? Does it prevent it from becoming garbled like the old children’s game Telephone?

Or will it expose the obedient to spammers?

Does ‘Copy and Paste’ Spread the Message Better?

I’ve spent some time researching the claim that a copy and paste will be spread a post further than a share. I have not found a shred of evidence to support this.

Let me rephrase:

I haven’t found a shred of reputable evidence that copying and pasting content results in more publicity or reads.

Demands to copy and paste will backfire.
Don’t ask for people to copy and paste too often.

Facebook’s algorithm depends on sharing content to determine trends.  I’m sure it can also see the same information via copy and paste, but its algorithm relies on sharing content.

Among other things, this helps Facebook determine where to show advertisements and other items it believes individual users would want to see.

These ads are why Facebook is free.

I’m also a little puzzled about the supposed benefits of copy and paste because sharing essentially is just that. It also maintains the original message.

Copying and pasting a post can mangle the message if it’s done selectively.

Omitting certain words is a common way to manipulate statements. We know this. This also leads to the social media sickness known as fake news.

Facebook is Sick of Fake News

Facebook has taken it on the chin for its role in permitting the fake news phenomenon.

Put aside the question of how much fake news played a role in the Presidential election. It played a role in a shooting at a DC pizzeria. A nutcase saw a fake news post somewhere (it was on a lot of social media channels) alleging a DC pizzeria was actually a child sex ring run to benefit of Hillary Clinton.

Nut Job decided to learn more. He drove from his home in North Carolina about a month after the election to “self-investigate,” according to the Washington Post. He brought with him his trusty AR-15 and Colt .38.

Apparently, “self-investigations” begin with shooting a premise. Luckily no one was hit.

Of course, there was absolutely no evidence of a child sex ring at this restaurant. Or that the Clinton campaign had a nefarious involvement with pizza and/or children. It is true that some Clinton campaign employees ate at this particular pizza joint and recommended it in emails to other pizza-loving friends.

This episode demonstrates that some people will believe anything that suits their pre-existing opinions.

And while fake news no doubt helped Facebook keep its #1 social media ranking, Zuckerberg et. al. have had enough and are cracking down. A team of people now investigate suspicious news pages. And it’s taking other steps to control Facebook from being used for purposes it doesn’t like.

Facebook has long punished frequent “Like baiting” that easily morphs into spam. It’s very likely doing the same thing with users who frequently request readers to  copy and paste.

Keep on asking people to do this, and you’ll find your posts may be curtailed.

Furthermore, this tactic is also used by people who are perpetuating hoaxes (like the pizza story above) according to ThatsNonsense, a site that targets Facebook and other social media that fall prey to scams. When you copy and paste, you’re creating a new post that makes the original one difficult for Facebook to track down. It makes it harder for Facebook to flag posts that can cause harm, are libelous, or just plain false.

Let’s Keep Facebook Civil

I’ve seen some friends ask to return Facebook to simpler times when only noncontroversial items were discussed. Ironically, this includes at least two who in the past posted some fairly outrageous material.

I’d like to think they have reconsidered their behavior. Still, it’s a bit much that they are more or less demanding this from people whose posts are far less strident.

The copy and paste scheme is also been abused by people trying to guilt others into doing something they want. It’s a passive-aggressive approach. “If you really are my friend / care about victims of <fill in the illness/tragedy> / love your <family member>, you’ll share this.”

This isn’t good Internet etiquette. Sure, Facebook is a great way to share your pain, opinions, and photos of a new grandnephew. Insisting that people share, or copy and paste your post is annoying. I saw this sentiment over and over again in my research.

I am not saying don’t ask people to share an occasional post or page. Sometimes, it’s a good way to get people to help with a specific project. This is different than saying “if you care, you’ll share” or some other Johnny Cochran-like plea.

Facebook is a good place to identify trends and even get some news, or get a sense of what other people see as news. It’s a public forum. I do not want to see political commentary shut down.

But beware: using terms like “libbies” or “wingnut” (unless you’re discussing font options) is going to tell Facebook and the world that you aren’t to be taken seriously anyway.

As John Lennon once sang,

“If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain’t gonna make with anyone anyhow.”