Sunday, September 15, 2019

The joy of compound words

Effective public speaking depends on choosing specific words to describe our ideas. Frequently those are compound words, especially nouns. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a compound as: “A word consisting of components that are words.”

Often (but not always) those components will be a pair of nouns like tooth + brush = toothbrush. Word order matters – a boathouse is not the same as a houseboat.

At the Learn English Today web site the web page including compound nouns discusses several other possibilities:
An adjective and a noun (blackboard, greenhouse, redhead)

An adjective and a verb (dry-cleaning)

A verb and an adverb (drawback, takeover)

An adverb and a verb (input, outbreak).  

Words may either be placed next to each other or coupled via hyphens, like the model train engine and car shown above. Rules for hyphenation are complex. The U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual (whose 2016 edition can be downloaded here) has chapters on Compounding Rules (#6) and Compounding Examples (#7). Rule 6.7 says that:
“A hyphen is used to avoid doubling a vowel or tripling a consonant except after the short prefixes co, de, pre, pro and re, which are generally printed solid.”

Some compound words contain more than two words, as shown above by a longer model train. An article by Karina Martinez-Carter on June 10, 2013 at The Week titled 8 of our favorite ridiculously long German words mentioned Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften (legal expenses insurance companies). Decades ago I read a humorous claim that there was a single German word corresponding to the following English sentence:

“The woman who stands in a kiosk next to the opera house and sells the remaining tickets at a discount right before the performance begins.”   

Hopefully you do not have either a fear of words - which The Phobia List web page refers to as logophobia or verbophobia, or a fear of long words – which they call sesquipedalophobia or (absurdly) hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia.

Back on August 30, 2012 I blogged about Uncommon fears and made up hoplocynohydrophobia  to describe the fear of getting shot by a swimming dog carrying a handgun in its mouth. I just searched at Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo and found no one but me has ever used that word.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Don’t stick a ‘candle’ in your ear to remove excess wax

Sometimes I am amazed by the curious things people do and believe.

Ear candling or ‘coning’ involves sticking the bottom of a rolled-up wax-coated cloth cone in your ear (while lying on your side) and then lighting the other open top end – as is shown above. Over at Amazon you can buy a 2017 book by Vikki Kinsella titled Hopi Ear Candling: a complete home study course. The section describing how candles work says:

“The candle is inserted in the ear canal – always the narrow end first – and then the top of the candle is lit. The candle burns, sending smoke into the ear canal and this pushes out the air. The warmth will help the wax to soften and loosen any debris that is within the ear. The smoke can fill the ear and will help mucus and any other debris sitting within the sinus passages. The debris is dissolved and then can be drawn up through the ear by the pressure that has been created when the candle begins to burn. There is a small portion of the candle that does not burn and some of the debris will collect in this section.”

At the American Academy of Audiology web site on June 22, 2010 there was an Opinion Editorial  by Jackie Clark, Douglas L. Beck, and Walter Kutz titled Ear Candles and Candling: ineffective and dangerous. It discussed how the following four claims for ear candling are false:
1] Interconnections in the head allow the candles to drain the entire system through the ear.

2] Oxygen drawn through the candle will create a vacuum.

3] When a vacuum is created, it will pull residue out from the ear canal.

4] The method is safe, noninvasive, and effective. 

That editorial referred to a 1996 magazine article by D. R. Seely, S. M. Quigley, and A. W. Langman in Laryngoscope titled Ear Candles – Efficacy and Safety, which you can download here. They surveyed otolaryngologists and found the complications shown above in a chart.  
On February 18, 2010 the U.S. Food & Drug Administration had a consumer update titled Don’t get burned: stay away from ear candles. Health Canada also discussed Ear candling and advised:
“However, this old home remedy has no proven medical benefits and can cause serious injuries.”

Ear candling also just was thoroughly debunked by Edzard Ernst on page 165 of his 2019 book Alternative Medicine: a critical assessment of 150 modalities, which you can read at Google Books.

There is a 13-minute YouTube video by Clifford R. Olson from August 31, 2018 titled Do ear candles work to remove earwax? His answer is no. What got me started on this topic is another 15-minute YouTube video from Jonathan Jarry on September 3, 2019 titled Video – the strange case of the illegal ear candle.

The very last word on ear candles comes from a May 17, 1993 Seattle Times article by humor columnist Dave Barry titled I’m all fired up over a cure for ear wax. Dave said that if something went wrong, then the newspaper would use this headline:
Deserved to Die, Authorities Say

Friday, September 13, 2019

Evolution of road graders

A road grader is a fascinating piece of construction equipment. Modern ones like the Caterpillar motor graders shown above have enhanced GPS-based controls on their blades (antennas indicated by arrows). They don’t need surveyors and stakes to grade land to a desired contour. How did graders evolve?  

On Tuesday, September 3rd we were driving south in Oregon on U.S. Route 97 and drove past the Collier Logging Museum 30 miles north of Klamath Falls. On Thursday September 5th we stopped and visited that lovely 146-acre museum. It has equipment from three eras: horse and oxen (1860 – 1900), steam (1890 – 1920), and internal combustion (1920 – today). There also is a ‘village’ of historic log cabins.

In displays on the horse and era there was a sign and an Adams Leaning Wheel grader. At the Historic web site I found more on Adams graders in an article by Lisa Lorentz on August 31, 2014 titled Sunday Adverts: Don’t Read This. The South African KHPlant web site has more Historic Motor Grader Pictures showing the evolution.

I looked on the Library of Congress web site and found two pictures showing road grading in Alaska, one from 1916 showing another tractor towed grader, and one from 1942 showing a motor grader working on the Alaska-Canada highway.    

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Visiting Crater Lake

Last week my wife and I finally visited Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon. That six mile long by 4- 1/2 mile wide lake is the deepest in the U.S. at 0.37 mile (1,949 feet) and it is amazingly clear and blue.

On Wednesday, September 4th we took the two-hour 33-mile Rim Drive Trolley Tour narrated by a park ranger. The trolley stopped six times for us to look and take pictures, four of which are shown above.

Looking east there is Wizard Island. Looking south there is a smaller island, the Phantom Ship (circled in yellow). Another view through trees shows the Phantom Ship more clearly, and closeup. Although it looks small it really is 500 feet long and 170 feet high.

Crater Lake was formed by collapse of the ~12,000 foot high Mount Mazama after a gigantic volcanic eruption 7,700 years ago. That eruption spewed 50 cubic kilometers of molten rock – about 100 times that for the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.  
Crater Lake was on my ‘bucket list’ of places to see. We saw it during the less crowded time after Labor Day. Still we had to stay at a motel in Klamath Falls, since the park lodge was fully booked.  

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Glassophobia yet again

What is worse than a pseudo-technical term for fear of public speaking like glossophobia - which will send you down blind alleys when you try to search for useful information? You also could misspell it as glassophobia. That error pops up every now and then in books, web articles, and even a YouTube video.

On April 8, 2017 at Amazon there was a 100-page paperback book by Perez Dalton titled How to Be Good At Everything. Well, not really everything. On December 22, 2017 at Amazon there was another short (47-page) paperback book by Perez Dalton with an absurdly long title of How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking (Glassophobia): Powerful Techniques for Creating Strong Social Presence, Staying Above Social Anxiety and Building Confidence.

On October 17, 2018 the Purple (mattress) web site had an article titled Sleep Guide for Anxiety which claimed:  
“The fear of public speaking (glassophobia) is still ranked alongside death as the number one fear of 20 percent of Americans.”

They linked to a blog post from the 2017 Chapman Survey of American Fears – but it actually ranked dying at #48 and public speaking at #52.  

On November 18, 2018 at Every Day Facts there was a four-minute YouTube video mistitled Glassophobia explained briefly.

And on April 6, 2019 down in South Africa at her Communicate! blog Rosanne Hurly Coyne posted on Glassophobia, and reposted on July 11, 2019 at KZN Women in Business as Glassophobia or Fear of Public Speaking.

The image of a glass being filled was modified from one by the EPA at Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Is notus a xenophobic compound word?

Notus (population ~540) is a very small city in southwestern Idaho, whose post office is shown above. Is its name an unusual xenophobic compound word formed from not (an adverb) and us (a pronoun)? That explanation was given in an article by Danielle Wiley titled The hazy history of Notus which appeared in the Idaho Press on March 25, 2016. It is implausible, since the name is pronounced like it instead was spelled notice.

Her article mentioned that notus also was thought to be a Native American word meaning “it’s all right.” Finally, near very end she mentioned:

“The town's website describes it as the ‘city of the southwind’ because the word notus is believed to be a Greek word for ‘south wind.’ ”

I got curious and looked up notus in the Oxford English Dictionary. It says that noun means the south wind, frequently personified ;  Notus the god of the south wind, son of Eos and Astraeus. The Latin word comes down to us from ancient Greek (Νότος). Apparently someone in southwest Idaho knew a bit of Greek mythology.

At Wikimedia Commons I even found an image of the god Notus from a 1794 book.

Here is a Youtube video about someone who grew up in Notus.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

An abysmal article about fear of public speaking based on shallow research

According to his LinkedIn profile, Michael Hanson is Director of IT Technology for UnitedHealth Group in New Port Richey, Florida (in the Tampa metro area). He writes a blog titled The Middle Manager. Beginning on April 2, 2019 he posted a series of 13 articles on Public Speaking. The first blog post, just titled Public Speaking, is truly abysmal, but the rest are OK. The first three paragraphs in that first post say:

“I want to start a series on a subject that affects a lot of people. The technical term is Glossophobia – fear of public speaking. This fear is considered a social phobia, and a paper published with the US National Institutes of Health noted that of people that had social phobias, the most common was speaking in public, by a significant – 89.4% – margin (Source: Epidemiology of social phobia: a clinical approach). 

An inability to speak in public can actually negatively impact your career. It can reduce your compensation by as much as 10%, and there’s a 15% chance that it would affect a opportunities for career advancement to higher leadership positions (Source: Columbia University: Social Anxiety Disorder). 

I’ve heard that fear of public speaking ranks up with life-changing events such as divorce or death of a loved one. It’s frequently quoted, but I couldn’t find any actual support sources. But given the above numbers, it’s probably fairly accurate.”

First, a phobia is different from just a fear, as is illustrated in the Venn diagram shown above, which appeared in my December 11, 2013 blog post titled Spouting Nonsense: July 2013 Toastmaster magazine article fumbles fears and phobias. You can find the detailed differences discussed on this web page at PubMed. And I’d call glossophobia a pseudo-technical term.

Second, the PubMed abstract from a magazine article that Michael linked to was published in European Psychiatry. It described results from a survey done in Sesto Fiorentino, which is a suburb of Florence, Italy. What percent of people there had a phobia of public speaking? The abstract says 6.88% had social phobia. Multiply that by 0.894, and you find just 5.88% of the population in that suburb there had a phobia of public speaking. That’s a rather small percentage. Does it have any relevance to a U.S. audience? Not really!

According to a 2008 article by Ruscio et al 12.1% of a U.S. sample had social phobia sometime in their lives. Of those, 88.7% had a phobia of public speaking/performance, which multiplies to 10.7% with public speaking phobia. That’s about half of the 21.2% with a fear of public speaking/performance (stage fright). It’s purely coincidence that the percentages with speaking phobia, 89.4 and 88.7 were nearly equal.     

Third, the Columbia University article Michael linked to was about social phobia, not fear of public speaking. Both it and the European Psychiatry abstract were used before by Peter Khoury in a horrible article at Magnetic Speaking, which I blogged about on December 15, 2016 in a post titled Believable and unbelievable statistics about fears and phobias of public speaking.
Fourth, the blog post about results from the 2018 Chapman Survey of American Fears had percentages for People I love dying 56.4% (rank #6), Dying 27.9% (#54), and Public speaking 26.2% (#59). The percentage for people I love dying is over twice that for public speaking, so it is not close at all.

Fifth, how about divorce? On December 14, 2016 I blogged about how Public speaking was the 7th most commonly stressful activity in an online survey done for Percentages were: Death of a loved one 94%, Going through a divorce or break up 92%, Looking for a job 83%, Moving 82%, Planning a wedding 78%, Getting a root canal 73%, public speaking 70%.