ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition — February 2003

In this Issue
Parents, Schools, and Values
Looking Toward the Future

Ask the PowerPhrase® Expert


AQP Connections
The Help Desk
Articles in Brief
News Bites
What’s Up?
Out of Context
Book Nook
February 2003 News for a Change—Home Page

NFC Index

AQP Home

Out of Context
What’s happening in the world today—from the practical to the ridiculous

Solving Generational Communication Problems
New Dictionary Opens Conversation Pipelines

Our language is fertile ground for the many modern mutations recorded in The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Fifth Edition. Now updated with more than 3,000 new words and meanings, The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary manages more than one-third of the coverage of The Oxford English Dictionary in one-tenth the size. More than 500,000 definitions grace its 3,984 pages, and its innovative, open design makes this vast amount of information easily navigable and identifiable.

The Shorter covers virtually every word or phrase in use in English—worldwide—since 1700. Drawing on the continuous research for The Oxford English Dictionary (OED), each definition’s changing meanings are followed throughout history and are illustrated by more than 83,000 quotations from some 7,000 authors.

A lot of new words have spilled from mouths or onto printing presses since the previous edition—about 3,500 of them, among its half-million or so definitions. Those new words and phrases include badass, Grinch, beltway, body-piercing, lap dancing, sticker shock, road rage, get real, gomer, and feet first. Still others came from popular culture or youth culture: wussy, wedgie, airport novel, boy band. The OED, sometimes ultra-cautious in its judgment, for the first time includes Internet and BarcaLounger, which nowadays almost everyone calls a La-Z-Boy, which is not in the Shorter.

Maybe a cursory reading of the Shorter should become part of every manager’s self-development program. Otherwise, how can seasoned leaders expect to communicate with youthful members of the work force?


A Pain in the Back?
Study Shows Backpack Pains Rarely Involve Backs

Children are more likely to be hurt tripping over backpacks or being hit with them than they are using the bags to lug around heavy school supplies, a new study suggests. Research at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital has shown that it’s incredibly rare for backpacks to cause back pain, says Dr. Charles Mehlman. “Of a large group of 346 children with back pain, only one said it was caused by the backpack.” The Consumer Product Safety Commission also says it’s rare. We challenge the basic assumption that backpacks are bad.

But overloading can cause strain. “If the child can’t stand up and walk in a normal posture with the backpack on, it’s too heavy. And it’s important to use both straps, to distribute the weight evenly. Some children opt for a roll-along backpack that they pull behind them. But it’s also easy to overload those,” said Dr. Mehlman. “Then children can twist their back from pulling with one arm. Eventually, they have to lift the case to get on the bus or to put it in their locker. So a roller backpack might not be better than the traditional backpack.”

Once again, we have evidence that conventional wisdom is rarely accurate.


Pointing Fingers
Aiming at Yourself May Be the Best Choice

People who admit their mistakes are viewed more favorably than those who deflect blame, concludes a study published in The Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. Excuse-makers may believe that admitting fault will hurt their images, but others usually see through their excuses. Instead of appearing more capable, these excuse-makers are viewed as deceitful and unreliable.

Dr. Barry Schlenker of the University of Florida and his colleagues observed that blaming failures on other people or on events that can’t be verified, such as traffic jams that made them late, signals insecurity, self-centeredness, and undependability. “What we value are people who seem sincere and truthful, effective, and committed to something beyond themselves,” Schlenker says.

In fact, the ability to acknowledge our failures probably makes us a more welcome member of the team. Because all of us know deep down that we’re going to make mistakes, it’s easier to trust others who are willing to admit their mistakes and ask us to help them overcome the problem.

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