Thursday, June 29, 2017

77 Principles of Public Speaking from Nick Morgan

I always enjoy reading Nick Morgan’s thoughts on public speaking. Starting on May 11th, in his Public Words blog, he presented an eleven part series on the Principles of Public Speaking that included 77 items. Nick gave a brief explanation of that series that said:

“My goal in these principles is to explore the implicit rules of public speaking, the kind that people rarely bring up in lists of the 10 rules for public speaking, which almost always start with ‘follow your passion’ and end with ‘always end on time. Both are true and good bits of advice, but they don’t help speakers much beyond the absolute beginning steps.” 

They are:

1: A speech should be about one idea and one only.

2: A successful speech leaves room for the audience to participate.

3: What you don’t say is as important as what you say.

4: The speaker cannot simply assert, however, any foundational aspect of her argument that is a matter of debate without acknowledging the sleight of hand.

5: Everything you do say is subject to the standards of proof that prevail in your field of knowledge. 

6: Emotional truth is as important in public speaking as intellectual truth.

7: Speakers can reaffirm what the audience already believes or take them on a journey to a new belief. The former are entertainers and motivational speakers. The latter are true teachers.

8: A good speech is a contract that exchanges attention for insight.

9: A speech should be particular to a certain audience, time, and place.

10: The organizer of the speech should arrange to have the speaker introduced to the audience.

11: A great speech foreshadows, teases, anticipates, and builds suspense.

12: A great speech addresses a particular problem that the audience has.

13: A speech begins with a point of view.

14: Nonetheless, that point of view should be heartfelt, credible, and supported by the facts.

15: A speech is performance art - and science.

16: The more immediately relevant a speech is, the more it is likely to be well-received.

17: A speech should offer connection to the audience in a minimum of two ways.

18: A great speech presents hierarchical thinking.

19: A great speech is fully human.

20: A speaker is a fox, a speech is a hedgehog.

21: A great speech strives for objectivity, but acknowledges its particular subjectivity.

22: The science of public speaking lies in getting the basic persuasive structure right. The art of public speaking lies in getting all the details right.

23: The structure of a speech should be informed always by its main purpose - and you should be able to state that in a sentence.

24: A good speaker should be prepared to improvise in the moment.

25: A good speech begins with specifics and ends with generalities.

26: Good speakers save their best stories for the end of the speech. Great speakers start with their best story and find even better ones.

27: A great speech is a process, not a product.

28: A great speech is anchored in a specific topic, time, and place.

29: Great speakers immerse themselves in the craft of speaking.

30: If you’re talking about a particular topic in your speech, the values of the topic need to be reflected in the speech - and the speaker.

31: Nevertheless, a speech never should be mistaken for its subject.

32: Facts in speeches establish the speaker’s credibility. Stories in speeches create trust.

33: A great speech almost always invokes the opposite emotion in counterpoint to the main one of the presentation.

34: A great speech addresses the past, present, and future of a topic.

35: Speeches should present ideas to their audiences in odd numbers.

36: A great speech opens the audience to wider territory at the close.

37: A great speech should be simple in structure and rich in detail.

38: Good speeches present complicated subjects with all their complexity. Great speeches present complicated subjects with simplicity.

39: A speech can persuade, it can teach, and it can motivate, but it can’t do all three.

40: If you can’t give your speech to your children or grandchildren and hold their attention throughout, you’re not ready to speak yet.

41: For those speaking globally, your content will need to vary by culture, but your body language should stay the same.

42: The length and tone of your speech should vary depending on the time of day it is given.

43: A speech is a whole, not a collection of parts.

44: A great speech is fractal.

45: A great speech asks questions.

46: But a great speech doesn’t ask its audience for things it cannot do.

47: All speeches are persuasive.

48: A great speech begins by framing a problem the audience has in a way that it hasn’t thought about before.

49: A great speech solve a profound problem the audience has.

50: In public speaking, as in architecture, form should follow function.

51: Speeches should be just long enough to persuade the audience, no longer.

52: Most great speeches follow a problem-solution format.

53: But if you vary from this classic speech structure, then do so for a reason.

54: There are two ways to deal with the structure of the speech during the speech itself: to reveal it or conceal it. The more complicated the structure, the more the audience needs to have it revealed.

55: The structure of a speech itself can influence the act of persuasion.

56: Structure your speech to have a strong overall flow, but learn it in sections.

57: Props enhance a speech more than slides.

58: Every speech at least implicitly addresses the three limitations of the form: the limit of the audience to retain information, the limit of the speaker to convey information, and the time limit.

59: The speaker and speech are both in service to the audience.

60: Prepare more material than you intend to give.

61: It is more important to move even one member of the audience than it is to deliver a perfect speech.

62: Success in public speaking, like everything else, follows the 80-20 rule,

63: The more successful a speech is, the more chaotic it will feel to the speaker and to the audience.

64: The most important factor for success in a speech is not the brilliance of the content, or even the persuasiveness of the ideas - it is the voice of the speaker.

65: Speeches reflect the tenor of their times.

66: More important than the accuracy of a particular speech is the power of its narrative.

67: A great speaker is the vehicle for a great message, not the message itself.

68: A great speech induces the audience to believe that it owns the ideas therein rather than the speaker.

69: Create a speech from back to front.

70: Always remember the context in which the speech is given.

71: Find ways to protect your soul even as you make yourself vulnerable.

72: Speeches and speakers must ultimately remain optimistic, even the ranters.

73: Own both your successes and your failures.

74: The most important quality of a speaker is presence.

75: Speakers must embrace authenticity and transparency.

76: Let your performance go.

77: Never court the emotional favor of the audience.

For each principle he also provide a short explanatory paragraph. You can find the whole series of posts as follows:

Part I (May 11, 2017): No. 1 to 7
Part II (May 16, 2017): No. 8 to 14
Part III (May 18, 2017): No. 15 to 21
Part IV (May 30, 2017): No. 22 to 28
Part V (June 1, 2017): No. 29 to 35
Part VI (June 8, 2017): No. 36 to 42
Part VII (June 13, 2017): No. 43 to 49
Part VIII (June 15, 2017): No. 50 to 56
Part IX (June 20, 2017): No. 57 to 63
Part X (June 22, 2017) No. 64 to 70
Part XI (June 27, 2017): No. 71 to 77

Without the explanations 39 and 47 may seem contradictory.

“39: A speech can persuade, it can teach, and it can motivate, but it can’t do all three. It’s no accident that motivational speakers often leave their audiences wondering what was said. An emotion was conveyed, but little was taught. Similarly, a speech that teaches a method or system rarely causes audiences to leap to their feet. The emotional ground that persuasion, teaching, and motivation cover is too broad to manage all three at once. Pick any two to be successful. Focus on one to be truly world class.

....43: All speeches are persuasive. Aristotle famously categorized speeches as informative, persuasive, or ornamental, but all speeches at least implicitly seek to persuade their audiences of the value of the speech, if nothing else.”

An image of Giles Penny’s sculpture of a Man with open arms came from Chris McKenna at Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Pteromechanophobia just is a humorous, pseudo-technical term for fear of flying - from a satirical cartoonist

There are a lot of books about public speaking. I recently glanced at a 2017 one by Mary Fensholt Perera titled The Polished Presentation (the complete speaker’s guide). You can look inside it at Amazon, or preview it at Google Books. Part I is about Presentation Anxiety. Chapter 1 is titled You Are Not Alone. Her second paragraph begins by claiming:

“Anxiety about public speaking earned the scientific name “glossophobia” from the Greek terms for ‘tongue’ and ‘dread.’ “

I disagree. In a blog post on March 7, 2011 titled Taking the gloss off glossophobia, I concluded:

“Using the word glossophobia says something - that you don’t actually know what you are talking about. It’s really just pseudo-technical terminology.”

Then on page 5 she says:

“Today’s most common phobias show us how our body is designed to deal with our long history of dangerous environments, with the world our ancestors knew. Here are some fears that make virtually every list of the most common phobias:

Arachnophobia              Fear of spiders
Ophidiophobia               Fear of snakes
Murophobia                   Fear of rodents
Claustrophobia              Fear of small spaces
Nyctophobia                  Fear of the dark
Agoraphobia                  Fear of open spaces, of leaving a safe place
Pteromerhanophobia     Fear of flying (height and enclosed space)
Cynophobia                   Fear of dogs (wolves, predators)
Glossophobia                Fear of public speaking”

I’d previously seen fear of flying called either aerophobia or aviophobia, but not pteromerhanophobia. Aerophobia is in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, where it is defined as fear or strong dislike of flying. Aviophobia similarly is in the Merriam-Webster medical dictionary, and defined as fear of flying.

But where the heck did that silly word, pteromerhanophobia, come from? A Google search showed that it seemed to only have popped up on July 17, 1995 on a web site called The Phobia List where it was defined as fear of flying.

Ptero is Greek for wing or feather, and famously shows up in a name for a flying dinosaur, pterodactylus - “feather finger.” And phobia is Greek for fear.

Merhano doesn’t really sound Greek. It seems vaguely Spanish or Basque, and might mean something like “stubborn donkey” (but really does not). Was Merhano a name the marketing department at Mitsubishi Motors dreamed up for a new sport-utility-vehicle, but rejected as being too close to Nissan’s Murano? Not really. Actually Merhano just is a place five miles southeast of Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea.

A further broader Google search lead me to a page at a web site called ABC word which had another word - pteromechanophobia. Apparently the compiler of The Phobia List used some hand-printed notes, and the bottom from a lower-case c got lost and thus turned into an r. The clearly Greek mechano (mechanical) became the obscure merhano. 

Looking around on Google Books led me to the source for pteromechanophobia. It appeared in a 1971 book by satirical cartoonist Robert Chesley Osborn and Eve Wengler titled An Osborn Festival of Phobias. A page there says:

“His own phobias are pteromechanophobia...”

The Wikipedia page about Robert Chesley Osborn says that during World War II he and Captain Austin K. Doyle came up with a comic character for Navy training manuals - a pilot named Dilbert Groundloop, which eventually inspired Scott Adams to use the first name to title his famous comic strip.     

The Fear of Flying Monster was photoshopped from a little finger monster named Saurn from Archie McPhee - who I got at Re-Pop Gifts here in Boise, while the pterodacytl image came from Wikimedia Commons.   

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Just in time for summer - an outlaw country song from Steve Earle about hotshots and the legendary Ed Pulaski

It’s officially summer, which is the season for wildland fires out here in the intermountain west. During the Soda Fire, on August 15, 2015, I blogged about Fighting wildland fires: Hotshots, helicopters, and whatever else it takes. Hotshots are elite 20-man firefighting crews.

The Firebreak Line is a country song on the latest album from Steve Earle & the Dukes titled So You Wannabe an Outlaw. You can listen to it here on YouTube.

Further back on October 20, 2009 I blogged about A Heroic Forest Fire Story: Ed Pulaski and the Big Blow Up. In that post I quoted a 390 word version of the story from a 2007 publication on Leading in the Wildland Fire Service. But in the second verse of his song Steve Earle tells the Ed Pulaski story using just 80 words: 

“...Ed Pulaski is a friend of mine
When I’m cuttin’ out a firebreak line
He invented this thing like an axe I swing
And he never left a member of his crew behind
When the fire jumped across the line
Took ‘em down in an abandoned mine
Then he drew his gun, said he’d shoot the first one
That got it in his head to try and step outside
Got everybody out alive, Ed Pulaski is a friend of mine”

Steve’s version is almost five times shorter. It’s not totally correct, but some poetic license is allowed. There’s a live solo version of The Firebreak Line from Good Records in Dallas. In it Steve jokingly claims that, along with the axe-mattock Pulaski, there is another combination tool called a chingadera. But that really is a rude, indefinite Spanish noun which means “that f*cking thing.”    

The statue in Boise is in front of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A series of six Dilbert comics about a presentation disaster

From June 12th to June 17th there were six daily Dilbert comic strips about Asok preparing and then giving a presentation to his CEO. In the first three he received bad advice - including June 14th where his boss told a flipped over version of “imagine the audience naked.” Only Alice gave him good advice.

Links to them, and their caption texts are:

June 12, 2017
Asok: I’m nervous because I need to make a presentation to our CEO. Do you have any advice?
Wally: Don’t make eye contact with him. He hates that.
Asok: You have made things far worse!
Wally: He also flies into a rage whenever he hears the word “THE”.

June 13, 2017
Asok: Do you have any advice for my presentation to the CEO?
Dilbert: Sure. If you make one small mistake, your career will be finished.
Asok: You just made me nervous and thus doubled my risk of failure.
Dilbert: I’m not the one who brought it up.

June 14, 2017
Asok: Do you have any tips for my presentation to the CEO?
Boss: When you are presenting, Imagine you are naked and everyone is laughing at you.
Asok: Why?
Boss: It’s just something I read. I might have the details wrong.

June 15, 2017
Asok: Can you help me edit my slides for my CEO presentation? I have 75 slides and ten minutes to present.
Alice: Get rid of 74 of them.
Asok: I’ll ask someone else.

June 16, 2017
Asok: I have 75 slides to discuss in ten minutes. Save your questions to the end.
CEO: Sit down and never talk to me again as long as you live.
Dilbert: How’d the CEO presentation go?
Asok: It was 75 slides too long.

June 17, 2017
Boss: Our CEO said he liked your presentation.
Asok: He made me shut up and sit down before I got to my first slide.
Boss: He’s not a big fan of content.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Avoiding a downward spiral of shame after a speech went badly

The Harvard Business Review has an excellent web article by Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries titled Don’t Let Shame Become a Self-Destructive Spiral.

There also was another article by Christine Clapp in the March 2013 issue of Toastmaster magazine titled When bad speeches happen to good people (how to recover from a disappointing presentation) that you can read in a .pdf file at her Spoken With Authority web site. Her advice is to:

Put it in perspective
Analyze what went wrong - and right
Craft a plan
Get back on stage
Measure progress
Consider a coach
Believe in comebacks

Shame (and resilience from it) is a large subject. Social work researcher Brené Brown has studied, written, and spoken about it a lot. In 2013 on the Oprah Winfrey show she gave brief advice on 3 Things you can do to stop a shame spiral. You can also watch her 21-minute TED talk on Listening to Shame, or listen to a long podcast of an episode  from On Being about The Courage to Be Vulnerable.

The spiral-staircase image came from Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

How is a car GPS like a razor?

How is a GPS like a razor? Both can be sold using a razor and blades business model. Blades go dull and need to be replaced. Map data for navigation on a car GPS will need to be updated. About six years ago I finally bought a little TomTom XL335SE GPS with a 4-1/4” screen diagonal (as shown above with a Gillette Mach 3) for about $75. Map updates at their web site weren’t included, so after two years I paid $50 (on sale) for an annual package that regularly was $75.

Once I got it securely mounted in the car, the TomTom GPS was very useful both around Boise, and on road trips. But came with a suction cup mount for the windshield that has a ring which snaps into the back, which it often didn’t stay there (perhaps due to dust). It also came with a black plastic disk that mounted on the dash via two-sided foam tape. That was a little better, but the GPS still fell off the dash unpredictably.

I looked over on eBay and found another GPS mount which fit into the cup holder to the left of the instrument cluster on the dash of my Honda Fit. That worked much better. I could pick up the GPS and mount, key in the destination, and then drop it into the cup holder. An address is entered going from general to specific - state, then city, then street name, and finally the number.

Around town I prefer side streets to the Interstate (I-84), and the I-184 spur to downtown (locally known as The Connector). But the GPS usually tried to send me via the Interstate. After I ignored it three or so times, it finally let me go the way I prefer. My TomTom GPS has been very useful for long trips. It showed me the exact lanes to take at busy unfamiliar interchanges, like on I-15 near the Salt Lake City airport.  

After two more years I updated again. Last month I got a single map update for $25. But, when I tried to download it, they warned me that my now clearly obsolete GPS just  didn’t have enough memory to hold the whole U.S. from their latest map. So I only fit in the western half. It was time to look for a replacement.

This time I went looking for a GPS with a larger screen (and more memory), and with lifetime free map updates. I found a $100 refurbished Garmin Nuvi 67LM with a 6” screen at Amazon. The GPS is very nice, but their suction cup mount was even worse than on the TomTom - even with the black plastic disk that mounted on the dash. I found a web article on Replacing the Garmin Nuvi suction cup mount that recommended other brands of mounts.

I got another cup holder mount to try. It didn’t work because the Garmin was too wide to fit down in the space between the door and dash. So, I cut a block from 1” pine to fit on the dash, painted it black, attached the suction cup mount via four sheet-metal screws, and used two-sided foam tape to hold it on the dash to the right of the speedometer. The power cord from the GPS dropped two feet straight down to the power (cigarette lighter) socket on the center console.      

When I turned on the Garmin it immediately required me to Agree with the following legal disclaimer:

Do not attempt to enter route information or adjust this device while driving. Failure to pay full attention to the operation of your vehicle could result in death, serious injury, or property damage. You assume total responsibility and risk for using this device. NOTICE: Some jurisdictions regulate or prohibit use othis device. It is your responsibility to know and comply with applicable laws and rights to privacy in jurisdictions where you plan to use this device. 

 On my new Garmin GPS an address is entered going from specific to general - first the number, then street name, then city, then state. Usually it guesses the city. I really like that it warns me a half-mile before each school zone (speed limit 20 mph when yellow caution lights are flashing). The first menu shows Where to? and View Map as the primary options. Under Where to? the next menu Options are Go Home, Address, Restaurants, Gas Stations, Foursquare, and Add Shortcut. But when I looked for restaurants near home, I found several out-of-date listings.  

Friday, June 16, 2017

What happened in history on June 16th?

Yesterday I looked on Easy-Speak and found to my horror that we didn’t have a Toastmaster for today’s meeting of the Saint Al’s Toastmasters club in Boise. So, I volunteered and looked up ideas for themes, mostly at Wikipedia, and via Google.

There is more than one holiday for every darn day of the year. If you were listening to morning-drive-time-radio today, then you might have heard that it is National Fudge Day, or National Flip-Flop Day, or (at NPR) even Bloomsday. Any James Joyce fans out there?

But, as Toastmasters, we are all about public speaking. Thus we first celebrate that it is the 159th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s House Divided Speech.

The House Divided Speech

“Political newcomer Abraham Lincoln, beginning his campaign for the Illinois US senate seat, addressed the Republican state convention at Springfield Illinois and made a controversial speech that has become known as the House Divided speech. Attacking the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, Lincoln said:

‘A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other!’ ”

That description I just quoted from came right out of the 2016 edition of Chase’s Calendar of Events, which I blogged about on June 9th in a post titled June is Effective Communications Month, but somehow I didn’t get the message. It is an annual, 1-1/2’ thick, 8-1/2” by 11” $80 paperback reference book. This weighty tome is a conversation piece for victims of insomnia. But the reference desk at your friendly local public library probably has a copy. If you call them up, you might get a much better idea for a Toastmasters club meeting theme than from doing a quick Google search.   

Of course, you also could got to Wikipedia and look up their page for June 16th. You will find lists of Events, Births, Deaths, and Holiday and observances. Much is boring stuff, like in 1903 the Ford Motor Company was incorporated, and in 1911 IBM was founded as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company. Birthdays include economist Adam Smith in 1723, Geronimo in 1829, and John Tukey in 1915. Tukey mashed up binary and digit into the trendy word bit.

National Fudge Day

The authoritative Oxford English Dictionary (OED) says as a verb fudge goes back to 1674, and it means to fit together or adjust in a clumsy, makeshift, or dishonest manner. As a noun it goes back to 1766 and means contemptible nonsense, a made-up story, a deceit, etc.

Fudge is a Victorian confection dating from 1889, described by a student at Vassar College. The Vassar fudge recipe became quite popular. Word spread to other women’s liberal art colleges in the Seven Sisters, like Wellesley and Smith.

Fudge is made by mixing sugar, butter, and milk, followed by heating it to the soft-ball stage at 240 F, and then beating the mixture while it cools so that it acquires a smooth, creamy consistency. Chocolate, nuts, and other flavors are sometimes added, either inside or on top. It is often bought from gift shops in tourist areas.

OED says another early 20th century meaning for fudge (as a noun) is a blank patch on a newspaper page - for example, the Daily Mail. It was set aside so especially late breaking news, like race results, can be inserted via a second press run - just for that outer page.

National Flip-Flop Day

Flip-flops are a type of inexpensive, waterproof two-piece sandal for casual wear. They consist of a flat sole (often foam) held loosely onto the foot by a Y-shaped strap that passes between the first and second toes and around both sides of the foot.

This style of footwear has been worn by the people of many cultures throughout the world, originating as early as the ancient Egyptians around 1500 BC.  The modern flip-flop descends from the Japanese zori, which became popular in the US following World War II - when returning soldiers brought them back.

Flip-flop has been used in both in American and British English since the 1970s. It is an onomatopoeia of the sound made by the sandals when walking in them. In Austria they are called Schlapfen, and in Ghana the are called Charlie Wote. They also are somewhat xenophobically called Japonki in Poland, and Vietnamki in Russia. Flip-flop also refers to changing your opinion, as politicians commonly do. 


Bloomsday is named after Leopold Bloom, the central character in Jame Joyce’s 265,000 word long stream of consciousness novel, Ulysses. It takes place in Dublin on June 16, 1904. Why was that date chosen? Well, Joyce met his muse, Nora Barnacle, on June 10, 1904 in Dublin. Reportedly they had their first romantic liaison on June 16th. But they didn’t get married until 1931. That novel was published in Paris on February 2, 1922.

Throughout the 1920s, the U.S. Post Office burned copies of the novel as obscene. In 1933 Random House arranged to import the French edition and have a copy seized by U.S. Customs. The publisher contested the seizure in a lawsuit, affirmed in 1934 on appeal, so the U.S. became the first English-speaking country where the book was freely available.

Images of Abraham Lincoln, fudge, and Leopold Bloom all came from Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Wonderful storytelling - a prop demonstration early in the movie Deepwater Horizon

I just borrowed the DVD of Deepwater Horizon from my friendly local public library and watched last year’s big-budget Hollywood biopic disaster (and even IMAX) movie. What impressed me most was the brief prop demonstration shown above in a one-minute YouTube video. At the breakfast table Mike Williams little daughter Sydney jams a brass gizmo into the bottom of a full Coke can, and then squirts honey into the 'straw' on top. (NPR took note of that demo in their movie review).

If you were wondering how people possibly could drill a well into a pressurized gas and oil deposit, they just showed you the answer to your question - it’s a column of ‘mud.’ You didn’t have to go to Wikipedia and look up the page for Drilling fluid, and read the section under Control formation pressures. And then you saw the “well” go out of control and blow out.    

That’s effective storytelling - show rather than just tell. It reminded me of how another complicated story instead was told poorly - David Lynch’s 1984 science fiction epic Dune. It was based on Frank Herbert’s long 1965 novel about a revolt on the desert planet of Arrakis. A 2011 article at The MARY SUE showed both pages from The Glossary that came with Dune... The Movie. As we walked into the theater, they handed it to us. Here are two examples from that glossary:

MELANGE (May-lahnj): the “spice of spices’” the crop for which Arrakis is the unique source. The spice, noted for its geriatric qualities, is of great importance in empowering the Guild Navigators with the ability to “fold space,” thus uniting the Universe under the Emperor.

SANDWORM (known as Shai-Hulud): Sandworm of Arrakis. Sandworms grow to enormous length. Some are 1500 feet long and 125 feet high.; they live to great age, unless drowned in water, which is poisonous to them. 

But If you hadn’t previously read the novel, you still were really lost for the next two hours and seventeen minutes. Too much about that strange world was left untold or unsaid.

Watch a teaser from Deepwater Horizon that cuts between the tabletop demo and the following disaster.   

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sometimes a quotation just gets lost in translation

At the Decker Communications blog on April 27, 2017 there was a post by Ben Decker about feedback titled Iron Sharpens Iron. The King James Bible version of Verse 17 from Chapter 27 in the Book of Proverbs says:

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”

This verse typically is interpreted as being positive. For example, a web page at Got titled What does it mean that iron sharpens iron? says:

“There is mutual benefit in the rubbing of two iron blades together; the edges become sharper, making the knives more efficient in their task to cut and slice.”  

Our common experience is that to sharpen an edge you use a tool like a file or a whetstone to remove material. We might picture that one of those ‘blades’ was a steel file used to hand sharpen the edge of a tool such as a Vermont farmer’s scythe, as is shown above in an image from 1937. The Wikipedia article on scythes says they first appeared in about 500 B.C. Scythes might not have been around when the Book of Proverbs was written, but other edged tools like knives or swords were.

That Got Questions page refers to a 1995 book by Howard and William Hendricks titled As Iron Sharpens Iron - building character in a mentoring relationship. On page 18 it explains:

“The Bible puts it this way: ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.’ (Proverbs 27:17). Have you been sharpened against the whetstone of another man’s wisdom and character.”

I found a May 21, 2016 blog post by Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition titled What If “Iron Sharpening Iron” in the Book of Proverbs is actually Something to Avoid? He referred to a magazine article by Ronald L. Giese, Jr. titled “Iron Sharpens Iron” as a Negative Image: Challenging the Common Interpretation of Proverbs 27:17 that appeared in the Journal of Biblical Literature, Spring 2016, pages 61 to 76 (Vol. 135, No. 1). Dr. Giese concluded:

“The meaning of the verse is therefore along these lines: Just as a hard iron hammer pounds soft iron into something sharp, ready for battle, in the same way a man causes his neighbor to go on the attack (i.e., have a ‘sharp face’).”
If we assume that the Bible is referring to wrought iron, I agree with Dr. Giese that the typical positive interpretation is wrong. He notes that there weren’t iron files back then, so the rubbing interpretation is not valid. But there is one more important detail to complete the meaning for that verse.

Wrought iron doesn’t behave like steel. Steel contains enough carbon that it can be heat-treated to produce hard iron carbide particles. Wrought iron is low carbon iron (plus slag particles), without enough carbon to harden it like steel.

The only way to strengthen (or harden) wrought iron is by work hardening. That means permanently deforming it at room temperature, typically by hammering on the edge supported by an anvil (a process called peening). The Wikipedia article on swords notes this is the same method previously used for bronze swords. You don’t remove material – you just change its shape, which increases its strength.

There is a section by Michael Bussell on wrought iron in the Construction Materials Reference Book, which I found at Google Books. Table 6.8 says that wrought iron has an ultimate tensile strength (UTS) of 53.1 ksi in the hot rolled condition and increases to 86.1 ksi in the cold drawn condition. Similarly, wire in the hot rolled condition has a UTS of 53.1 ksi, versus 92.1 ksi in the cold drawn condition.  

Wikipedia says softer European scythes still are peened. What “iron sharpens iron” really means is likely as shown above for peening a scythe blade, a 2014 image from Gilles San Martin. You also can watch the process in an eight-minute YouTube video by Botan Anderson titled Zen and the art of peening a scythe blade. 

Writing this post was interesting. I haven’t looked up information about the behavior of wrought iron for ~25 years and that was the only time in my consulting career. It was back when I worked in Columbus, Ohio. After the 1991 fire at Adelbert Hall, a civil engineer I worked with was reviewing documents regarding rebuilding that included measurements of the strength of wrought iron structural beams. He asked me to check if there were any ASTM standards, like those he was used to seeing for structural steels. I finally found a printed copy of the old ASTM standard on the top floor of the main library at Ohio State University. To locate it, I had to look in their old card catalog rather than the current computerized one.  

Sunday, June 11, 2017

What is the second-worst acronym ever?

Last night I was listening to BBC radio coverage about results from the snap election in the UK, where Conservatives did not secure a majority in Parliament. They were looking at a political deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland. The BBC spelled out the three letters D-U-P rather than pronouncing the acronym as a word that would sound like dupe - for which the Oxford Dictionary definitions are:

Verb - deceive; trick. Noun - a victim of deception.  

There is a web site for the Democratic Unionist Party at By the way, Wikipedia says DUP also is an acronym for Dances of Universal Peace and Daughters of Utah Pioneers.

On April 8, 2016 I blogged about What’s the worst acronym ever? It was ASSOL for the Antonin Scalia School of Law (at George Mason University) which thankfully was renamed to ASLS - the Antonin Scalia Law School.

The image was reworked from an 1895 Puck magazine cover of John Bull’s dilemma at the Library of Congress.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Women, public speaking, and fear

On June 8, 2017 at both the Public Speaking and Public Speaking Network groups on LinkedIn Charles Crawford posted under the title Public Speaking: Are Men and Women Different? with a link to his November 19, 2016 web article titled Women and Public Speaking.

In that article Mr. Crawford stated his view:

“….Fear, unease, uncertainty, nerves about public speaking affect men and women alike.”

Quantitatively that is absolute rubbish. Of course men and women are different! The fear monster (shown above) looms larger for women. More women than men fear public speaking, and also women fear public speaking more than men.

Just look at results from just one national survey I blogged about on March 23, 2014 in a post titled YouGov survey of British adults found they most commonly were very afraid of heights, snakes, public speaking, spiders, and being closed in a small space. YouGov found 27% of women and 13% of men were Very Afraid of public speaking. At the other end of the spectrum, another post on February 19, 2015 titled 2014 YouGov fear surveys show a fearlessness gap between men and women similarly showed that 26% of men but only 14% of women were Not Afraid at All.

There also was a YouGov survey of U. S. adults, which I blogged about on April 2, 2014 in a post titled YouGov survey of U.S. adults found they most commonly were afraid of snakes, heights, public speaking, spiders, and being closed in a small space. YouGov similarly found 24% of women and 16% of men were Very Afraid of public speaking. There was a similar fearlessness gap to Britain - 29% of men but only 16% of women were Not Afraid at all.

Women also fear public speaking more than men. In another post on November 10, 2015 titled YouGov survey done in 2014 found U.S. adults were less than A Little Afraid of public speaking, I showed how to calculate a Fear Score on a scale from 1 = Not afraid at all to 4 = Very afraid. For the U.S. survey the fear score was 2.70 for women and 2.36 for men. For the British survey the fear score was 2.79 for women and 2.33 for men.

There are three other well-known older U.S. surveys that found more women than men feared public speaking. The 2001 Gallup poll reported in an article titled Snakes top list of Americans’ fears found 44% of women and 37% of mean feared public speaking in front of an audience. On May 19, 2011 I blogged about  America’s Number One Fear: Public Speaking – that 1993 Bruskin-Goldring survey, which found 54% of women and 34% of men feared speaking before a group. On October 27, 2009 I blogged about The 14 Worst Human Fears in the 1977 Book of Lists: Where did this data really come from? In the 1973 Bruskin survey 46% of women and 36% of men feared speaking before a group.

How about the Fear of Public Speaking Statistics web page at Statistic Brain which claims 75% of women and 73% of men suffer from speech anxiety? Those are phony statistics, and there really was no survey from the National Institute of Mental Health. I blogged about it on July 15, 2012 in a post titled Another bogus statistic on the fear of public speaking.

There also are two U.S. studies of university students which used fear survey schedules to determine how much women and men feared public speaking. On October 13, 2012 I blogged about how In a 1992 study of U.S. university students, fear of public speaking ranked sixth for men and eighth for women. Klieger found that for speaking in public, on a scale from 0 to 4, women had an average fear of 2.04 versus men at 1.82. On October 10, 2012 I blogged about how In a 1965 study of university students, fear of public speaking ranked sixth for men and seventh for women. Geer found that for speaking before a group, on a scale from 1 to 7, women had an average fear of 2.87 versus men at 2.59.

For over decades psychologists have known that there are gender differences to fears. Why didn’t Mr. Crawford get the message?

But the fear monster really isn’t as big as you might imagine (and his body feathers have been Photoshopped). With training and experience he usually shrinks down to his actual size, shown above. Fluther is a little Finger Monster toy sold by Archie McPhee, as seen in a YouTube video. I got him at Re-Pop Gifts here in Boise.

Friday, June 9, 2017

June is Effective Communications Month, but somehow I didn’t get the message

A post on June 7th from DeFinis Communications (which appeared at AllTop Speaking under The Presentation Skills Blog) was titled June is Effective Communications Month!

An undated article by Denise Wakeman proclaimed:

“Did you know that June is Effective Communications Month? It’s a real holiday, listed in Chase’s Calendar of Events.”

Chase’s Calendar of Events is an annual, 1-1/2’ thick, 8-1/2” by 11” $80 paperback reference book published by Bernan Press. It's a conversation piece for victims of insomnia. The front cover describes it as follows:

“12,500 Entries. 196 countries. 366 Days. All in one book....The Ultimate Go-to Guide for Special Days, Weeks and Months. 4000 notable birthdays. 1,400 historical anniversaries. 650 national and international holidays. 160 religious holidays. And thousands of additional days of note from around the globe. The Authority Since 1957.”

I had blogged about Chase’s in an August 8, 2014 post titled Was yesterday really National Public Speaker Day? In that post I noted that it was useful if you were an emcee (like the Toastmaster at a club meeting) and had run out of ideas for a theme (or a topic to joke about).

I borrowed the 2016 edition of Chase’s from the Meridian Public Library. (The latest 2017 one doesn’t circulate). 

Who came up with Effective Communications Month? The entry for it in Chase’s says:

“EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATIONS MONTH, June 1-30. The most important cog in the wheel of interpersonal relationships is communication. Active listening, verbal language, paralanguage, body language and written communication skills are the essence of how humans relate to each other personally and professionally. This month is dedicated to learning how to communicate more effectively. For info: Sylvia Anderson, Springboard Training, PO Box 588, Olney, MD 20830-0588. Phone (301) 260-1538. E-mail: Web: www.”

Why didn’t I get the message? Way too much information! According to Chase’s, June also is:

Adopt-A-Shelter Cat Month
African-American Music Appreciation Month
Audiobook Appreciation Month
Cancer From the Sun Month
Caribbean-American Heritage Month
Cataract Awareness Month
Child Vision Awareness Month
Children’s Awareness Month
Dairy Alternatives Month
Entrepreneurs ‘Do It Yourself’ Marketing Month
Gay and Lesbian Pride Month
Great Outdoors Month
International Men’s Month
International Surf Music Month
June Dairy Month
June is Perennial Gardening Month
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month
Men’s Health Education and Awareness Month
Migraine and Headache Awareness Month
National Aphasia Awareness Month
National Bedroom Reading Month
National Candy Month
National Caribbean-American Heritage Month
National GLBT Book Month
National Iced Tea Month
National Rivers Month
National Safety Month
National Oceans Month
National Soul Food Month
National Zoo and Aquarium Month
Pharmacists Declare War on Alcoholism
PTSD Awareness Month
Rebuild Your Life Month
Skyscraper Month
Sports America Kids Month
Student Safety Month

That’s 35 months to celebrate just in June, if we count Caribbean-American Heritage Month just once. There are 11 National, 8 Awareness, 2 Appreciation, 2 International, 2 Music, and 2 Safety months.

An article at Idea Success Network claims Sylvia Anderson was responsible for getting the following eight months into Chase’s:

February: both National Time Management Month and Youth Leadership Month
March: International Ideas Month
May: Motorcycle Safety Month
June: Effective Communications Month
July: Women’s Motorcycle Month
August: Black Business Month
October: Positive Attitude Month

It also claimed a ninth, September: Self-Improvement Month, but that was not in the 2016 edition. Perhaps they forgot since September also is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Month.

The monkey was adapted from a no evil image at Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Which quote is fake, and which is real?

1] "I not only use all the brains I have, but all I can borrow." - Woodrow Wilson

2] “For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn.” - Ernest Hemingway

The first one, attributed to Woodrow Wilson, is real. A definitive source for it is the first footnote in a CIA web article by Mark E. Benbow titled All the Brains I can Borrow: Woodrow Wilson and Intelligence Gathering in Mexico, 1913-1915.

The second one, supposedly from Ernest Hemingway, is actually fake. Garson O’Toole discussed it in a 2013 web article at his Quote Investigator site, and it also is in his 2017 book titled Hemingway Didn’t Say That - the truth behind familiar quotations.
There are at least four other books that discuss the dubious nature of some quotations. In 1989 there was Paul F. Boller, Jr. and John George’s They Never Said It a book of fake quotes, misquotes, and misleading attributions. In 1992 there was Ralph Keyes’s “Nice guys finish seventh”: False phrases, spurious sayings, and familiar misquotations. In 2006 there was another Ralph Keyes book, The Quote Verifier; who said what, where, and when and also Elizabeth Knowles’s What They Didn’t Say a book of misquotations.

Quotes have a bad habit of changing wildly, like in the parlor game we call Telephone in the U.S., but that Wikipedia calls Chinese whispers where:

“one person whispers a message to the ear of the next person through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group.”

The description of Mr. Keye’s 1992 book at Amazon notes some mechanisms for change:

“Freud may never have said ‘Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,’ for example, but we certainly wish he had. Keyes calls this ‘the flypaper effect.’ Orphan quotes or comments by unknowns routinely gravitate to noted figures such as Churchill, Lincoln, or Twain. Other syndromes Keyes discusses include bumper stickering (condensing a long comment to make it more quotable), lip syncing (mouthing someone else's words as if they were your own), and retro-quoting (putting words in the mouths of famous dead people).”

I first used a slightly incorrect version of the Wilson quote in a June 14, 2008 blog post titled QUOTATIONS: “I use not only all the brains I have, but all I can borrow.”

The image of a shrug was adapted from one at Openclipart.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Should you use a quotation, or just let your own words fall out?

I just ran across an interesting article from May 31, 2017 at CounterPunch by Kim C. Domenico titled Add Meaning, Stir and Bake: A New Anarchist Recipe in which she said:

“....Beginning with my husband’s fiftieth  birthday, I realized if there was something I longed to hear spoken at a gathering or occasion, I should not undertake a search for the apt Rumi poem or the Native American chant.  Rather, I needed to take the truly radical path:  I should speak the words I wanted to hear!  Over the 18 years since then, this ceremonial speaking has become probably the most ‘anarchist’ thing I do, which is, to speak truly to occasions in a way that revives the eternal meanings and verities for me, trusting the words will strike at least some chords in the listeners.”

Her words reminded me of the Sara Bareilles song Brave, which says just to:

“Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave”

I blogged about that song on August 1, 2013 in a post titled Joy of letting the words fall out.

What do you think?

UPDATE: June 14, 2017

If you are tempted to quote the Sufi mystic Rumi, keep in mind that his poems might not mean what you think. Look up an article from April 16, 2014 by Mohammed Ghilan at Aljazeera on April 16, 2014 titled What was Rumi talking about?

The same caution applies to modern Sufi songwriting. Richard Thompson’s lovely song Dimming of the Day can be taken as a romantic duet, as in the 2010 version with Bonnie Raitt. But if you just look at the cover for his and his wife Linda’s 1975 album Pour Down Like Silver, you would think differently about what was meant.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Why don’t we spell the way we talk?


When she was a young schoolgirl, my mother got very frustrated about having to learn the spelling for her hometown. Cincinnati is located on the Ohio river. Why is there a double N? Why isn’t it Sinsinati? Why isn’t the Kentucky town across the river spelled Kuvingtun instead of Covington?

A generation later and upstream I was similarly upset by spelling Pittsburgh (double T, ending with a silent h). Even worse was the long state name of Pennsylvania. Again, why the double N? Why wasn’t that city spelled Pitsberg, and that state spelled Pensilvaineya?

I found a 16-minute TEDxRiodelaplata talk from 2015 by Karina Galperin in Buenos Aires, Argentina titled Should We Simplify Spelling? that discussed the same problem with spelling in the Spanish language. 

Why don’t we just write words the way we pronounce them?

Friday, June 2, 2017

WARNING: Shamazon and other phony phishing emails

Watch out! In the past few days I have received several totally fraudulent phishing emails pretending to come from shopping sites, like the following one that wound up in my spam folder:

Title: Your order 178-7975-78511 has been successfully canceled

Body: []

Today 1:28 PM

Your order has been successfully canceled. For your reference, here’s a summary of your order:

You just canceled order 178-7975-78511 placed on June 1, 2017.


1 “Intervenes”;  2002,  Deluxe Edition
    By: Stacy Armstrong

Sold by:  Amazon .com LLC

Thank you for visiting!

The email referred to an order I never made (and never canceled), for a nonexistent product. It was sent to the email address I use for this blog, which is NOT the address I use when ordering from Amazon. But the English is not as bad as is usual. 

Note that the address it actually came from is NOT that for Amazon.. At the bottom of the body is another link that claims to also go to Amazon, but actually leads to what Firefox labels as an attack site.

Another phony Amazon email came from the outrageous email address of Two other emails with the same body format claimed to have come from Alibaba Group and eBay.

DO NOT open or reply to any of these emails - just delete them.


June 4 - the latest Shamazon email came from

June 5 - Today's came from 

June 10 - Today there were two.
  One came from order-update 
  and the other from