pogonosophy

Pogonotrophy is growing a beard. Pogonotomy is cutting a beard (or shaving it off altogether). Pogonology is writing about beards. And so pogonosophy is knowledge about beards – or perhaps wisdom signified (or conferred?) by a beard. Continue reading

Novel medical treatments

To go with my presentation “Translating medicalese into everyday English,” here’s the article that I wrote for The Editors’ Weekly, the blog of Editors Canada.

People with serious health problems are often subject to novel treatments. But that shouldn’t mean being treated like they’re in a novel. Continue reading

Translating medicalese into everyday English

I’ve spent nearly 20 years of my life helping people communicate healthcare information clearly and effectively to ordinary readers (among other things – I’m not a one-trick pony!). This year at the Editors Canada conference I gave a one-hour presentation sharing some of the important things I’ve learned.

Here’s the handout: harbeck.ca/James/Harbeck_Medicalese_Handout.pdf

And here’s the article I wrote for the Editors Canada blog to go with it: Novel medical treatments

If you work for a company that communicates healthcare information to ordinary people, I can come do a seminar for you with exercises – get in touch with me via jamesharbeck.com/contact/.

Here’s the presentation – all 56 minutes and 23 seconds of it:

Rime of the Ancient Editor

Marie-Lynn Hammond (a luminary in the world of Canadian folk music and also a professional editor) was asked to write a song to celebrate the 40th birthday of Editors Canada (also known as the Editors’ Association of Canada), and she asked me to join in writing the words. She wasn’t able to be at the conference in Halifax, so I led those present at the opening reception in singing it. Here’s a cellphone video of it.

And here are the words:

I am an ancient editor (well, OK, not that old);
I do to words what’s right and true and also what I’m told.
I mostly work alone and yet I’m not alone at all,
for editing lures many with its nerdy siren call!

CHORUS:
Hey ho! Haul up the manuscriptand brave the waves of prose,
and on the storm of muddy words some order we’ll impose.
Hey ho! Fix up the manuscript by sunlight and by moon!
We’ll steer a course to clarity for deadline’s coming soon!

I sail through books and articles, and sometimes even verse;
I try to make them better or at least not make them worse.
I move, delete, and query, tracking changes all the while,
And though hands and eyes may weary, still I do it all with style.

I toil in anonymity, I serve the author’s voice;
It’s grammar over glamour—but when freelance, I rejoice!
For I can work from coffee shops, or home if I decide,
In my housecoat and pyjamas with my cats all by my side.

And when the writing’s so banal I fear I’ll fall asleep,
[I must] beware the dangling modifiers lurking in the deep!
And if the structure’s full of holes and threatening to sink,
I pray I’ll be forgiven should I end up in the drink!

Our crew’s been here for forty years, and we’re still going strong;
They said that we’d be obsolete, but oh! we proved them wrong.
As long as words are in the world, they’ll need a steady hand,
And that’s why we are editors, and oh! my friends, it’s grand!

Are accented characters über-cool or passé?

My latest article for The Week is on accented characters, like ü and é. They’re not officially part of English spelling, but they just don’t go away. And in spite of some people’s uncoöperativeness, I don’t think they’re going to go away, either.

In the future, will the English language be full of accented characters?

 

avid, flavid, gravid, nimravid, pavid

What can take a person from avid to pavid in an instant – and not just pavid, but flavid?

I’ll back up for a moment. Avid you know, of course; it comes originally from Latin aveo ‘I crave’ (yes, that’s also the origin of avarice). But add a simple and you go from being full of piss and vinegar to peeing yourself: pavid means ‘fearful’; it comes from Latin paveo ‘I fear’ (not ‘I hit the pavement’, though that might be a consequence), which is the source of modern Italian pauro and French peur, both nouns meaning ‘fear’. Puff and flutter that in flusteration and you get flavid, which means ‘yellow’ and comes from Latin flavus (not to be confused with flavius, which means ‘yellower’ or ‘goldener’ and was apparently a good thing in Rome, as it shows up in names of numerous important people, including some emperors).

OK, so what – aside from a wanton – could take a person from avid to pavid? And what – aside from wayward pee – could make them flavid? Well, how about a gravid nimravid? Continue reading

Pronunciation tip: Champagne houses

For this week’s pronunciation tip, I’m talking about the perfect breakfast beverage: Champagne. Here’s how to say the names of several of the great houses in Champagne: Taittinger, Moët et Chandon, Dom Pérignon, Bollinger, Billecart-Salmon, Drappier, Nicolas Feuillatte, Henriot, Jacquart, Jacquesson, Krug, Lanson, Laurent-Perrier, Mumm, Perrier-Jouët, Piper-Heidsieck, Pol Roger, Pommery, Louis Roederer, Ruinart, and Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin; also Reims, Épernay, and Dizy.

Oh – and if you’re thinking about visiting Champagne (or just want to know what it’s like), I have 21 tips for you.