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19 Everyday Expressions That Came from Aesop

Aesop: we’ve all heard the name, and most of us are familiar with at least a few of his fables with the anthropomorphized animals facing extremely unrealistic yet entertaining dilemmas.

There is no concrete evidence that the ancient Greek moralist and former slave we call Aesop ever wrote down any of his stories (in fact, it was several centuries after Aesop’s purported death that the first collection of his fables appeared), nor is there even proof that he actually existed at all. But the wisdom and warnings offered up by the morals of his many popular tales have survived more than two millennia, weaseling their way into the English language as common everyday expressions. Here are a handful of Aesop’s most popular contributions that we still use today, along with a taste of the stories that spawned them:

1. “QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY.”—FROM “THE LIONESS AND THE VIXEN”

A mother fox and lioness were boasting to each other about their young when the fox pointed out that where she gave birth to a litter of cubs each time, the lioness had only one. “But that one is a lion,” responded the lioness. Checkmate.

2. “HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY.”—FROM THE TALE “MERCURY AND THE WOODSMAN”

A woodsman lost his axe in a river and Mercury (the one with the wings on his shoes) appeared to retrieve it. Mercury offered the woodsman an axe made of silver and another made of gold before offering the man his own and, since the man admitted that the first two were not his, he was given all three axes as a reward. When a friend heard this story, he dropped his own axe into the same river. Smart. Mercury appeared again but this time the friend claimed the golden axe as his own, which disgusted the god so much that he returned all three tools back to the bottom of the river, leaving the man empty-handed.

3. “PRIDE COMES BEFORE A FALL.”—FROM “THE EAGLE AND THE COCKERELS”

Two cocks were fighting for control of a roost. When it was over, the loser of the battle went and hid himself in a dark corner while the winner climbed atop the barn and began to crow where he was promptly snatched up by a hungry eagle. The emo rooster was cock of the walk thereafter despite his excessive use of eyeliner.

4. “REVENGE IS A TWO-EDGED SWORD.”—FROM “THE FARMER AND THE FOX”

A farmer was fed up with a fox prowling his hen house at night and so set out for revenge. He trapped the fox and tied some tinder to his tail which he then set ablaze. In a panic, the fox set off at a run and, making his way through the farmer’s corn field, burned the farmer’s entire harvest to the ground.

5. “DON’T MAKE MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING,” OR “DON’T MAKE A MOUNTAIN OUT OF A MOLEHILL.”—FROM “THE MOUNTAIN IN LABOR”.

It would seem that even Shakespeare gave props to Aesop. In this tale, a mountain was groaning and appeared ready to burst and so attracted a great crowd, all of them anticipating some incredible tragedy. Finally, at the peak of this activity, from out of the mound surfaced a mouse, and for some reason everyone was completely disappointed despite the most likely alternative having been a volcanic eruption.

6. “IT’S EASY TO KICK A MAN WHEN HE’S DOWN.”—FROM “THE DOGS AND THE FOX”.

A fox came across some dogs gnawing on a lion skin and said (paraphrased) “that lion would kill you all if it wasn’t dead already.”

7. TO TAKE THE “LION’S SHARE.”—FROM “THE LION, THE FOX, AND THE ASS”

A lion, a fox, and an ass went hunting together and set to divide the spoils of their efforts between them. First, the ass divided the goods into three even piles, at which point the lion attacked and devoured him, then asked the fox to divide the food. The fox, taking a lesson from the ass, gave the lion nearly all of the game and set aside a meager portion for himself, which pleased the lion, who then allowed the fox to live. Another lesson gleaned from this tale? “Happy is the man who learns from the misfortunes of others.”

8. “DON’T COUNT YOUR CHICKENS BEFORE THEY ARE HATCHED.”—FROM “THE MILKMAID AND HER PAIL”

A farmer’s daughter was musing about the value of the milk she carried in the pail atop her head and began planning to use the profits to buy enough eggs to start a poultry farm. Eventually, her wild mind led her to ponder using the spoils of her poultry farm to buy a fancy gown for the fair. As the girl imagined how the boys would flock to her in her sparkling new duds she tossed her hair, sending the pail of milk and all of her dreams to the dirt below.

9. “NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION.”—FROM “THE CROW AND THE PITCHER”

A thirsty crow happened upon a tall pitcher, inside of which was a small quantity of water that he could not reach. The crow, apparently a genius bird, gathered a crop of stones and dropped them one by one into the pitcher until the water level had was high enough for him to drink. Ahh.

10. “LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP.”—FROM “THE FOX AND THE GOAT”

A fox found himself trapped in a well and so he coaxed a goat down with him into the water below. When the goat reached the bottom of the well the fox climbed on his back and out of his prison, leaving the goat to suffer his fate alone.

11. “A BIRD IN THE HAND IS WORTH TWO IN THE BUSH.”—FROM “THE HAWK AND THE NIGHTINGALE”

A nightingale was caught in the talons of a hawk and pled for his life, saying that the hawk ought to let him go and pursue much larger birds that might have a better shot at slaking his hunger. “I should indeed have lost my senses,” said the hawk, “If I should let go food ready to my hand, for the sake of pursuing birds which are not yet even within sight.” And he ate him.

12. “ONE GOOD TURN DESERVES ANOTHER.”—FROM “THE SERPENT AND THE EAGLE”

A snake and an eagle were locked in a life-and-death battle when a countryman came upon them and freed the eagle from the serpent’s grasp. As retribution, the snake spat venom into the man’s drinking horn and, as he went to drink, the grateful eagle knocked the poisoned drink from his hand and onto the ground below. The man was probably just ticked about his drink, though, if you think about it. Unless he spoke eagle.

13. “FAIR WEATHER FRIENDS ARE NOT MUCH WORTH.”—FROM “THE SWALLOW AND THE CROW”

In the story, a swallow and crow were arguing over who had the superior plumage when the crow ended the discussion by pointing out that, though the swallow’s feathers were pretty, his kept him from freezing during the winter. The crow then dropped the mic and walked off the stage.

14. TO HAVE “SOUR GRAPES”.—FROM “THE FOX AND THE GRAPES”

A fox came across a bunch of grapes hanging from a trellis high above but, try as he might, he just couldn’t reach them. As he gave up on the fruit and began to walk away, he said to himself, “I thought those grapes were ripe, but I see now they are quite sour.” It’s easy to disparage something you can’t attain.

15. “SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE.”—FROM “THE HARE AND THE TORTOISE”

Stop me if you’ve heard this one…You have? So you know the turtle wins the race despite the hare’s incredible speed? Thought so. Moving on, then.

16. “BIRDS OF A FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER.”—FROM “THE FARMER AND THE STORK”

When a flock of cranes descended on a farmer’s newly seeded field, he cast a net with the intention of trapping and killing them all. In the process, the farmer gathered a single stork along with the cranes, who naturally pleaded for his life, citing his noble character and pointing out that his plumage was different from his cohorts. The farmer, however, was not moved and, since the stork had seen fit to take up with the scoundrel cranes, he did him in with the other birds all the same.

17. “NIP EVIL IN THE BUD.”—FROM “THE THIEF AND HIS MOTHER”

When a woman failed to discipline her son for stealing a book from a schoolmate, he continued to up the ante and was eventually caught and hung. As the woman cried about her son’s fate, a neighbor basically rubbed it in her face by pointing out that if she’d put a stop to his thieving ways long before he never would have been executed.

18. “A MAN IS KNOWN BY THE COMPANY HE KEEPS.”—FROM “THE ASS AND HIS PURCHASER”

A man looking to purchase an ass took one home on a trial basis and released him in the pasture with his other donkeys. When the new addition took an instant liking to the laziest ass of the bunch, the farmer yoked him up and led him straight back to the vendor, saying that he expected the new donkey would probably just turn out as worthless as his choice of companion.

19. “OUT OF THE FRYING PAN, INTO THE FIRE.”—FROM “THE STAG AND THE LION”

No surprise ending here—a stag took refuge in a cave to hide from a pack of dogs that were on his trail only to find something much worse inside: a lion. Not quite sure how anyone can take anything from this particular fable except maybe ‘Keep yourself out of strange caves if you don’t want to get eaten by a lion.’ Still, it’s pretty sound advice.

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2014 in African American News

 

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25 Words For Other Words

 

IMAGE CREDIT:
ISTOCK

One of the intriguing things about languages is that they eventually develop vocabularies comprehensive enough to describe themselves, often down to their smallest units and components. So as well as drawing a distinction between nouns, verbs, and adjectives, we can talk about things like synonyms (happy, content) and antonyms (happy, sad); homophones (oar, ore, or) and homographs (bass the guitar, bass the fish); and digraphs (two letters with a single sound, like sh or ch), diphthongs (two vowel sounds in a single syllable, like “kah-oow” for cow) and ligatures (two letters joined as a single character, like Æ).

English being as vast and grandiloquent a language as it is of course, straightforward examples like these are just the tip of a linguistic iceberg. In fact there are dozens of little-known and little-used words referring to other words, describing their form, their origin, or their use. So next time you spot piripiri on a menu, or you’re trying to lip-read a conversation about “Ben’s men’s pens,” you’ll know exactly how to refer to it.

1. ANACRONYM

An anacronym is an acronym that has become so naturalized in the language that the phrase it originally stood for has now largely been forgotten. So “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus” is better known as scuba, and “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation” is laser. And Thomas A Swift’s electric rifle? That’ll be a taser.

2. ANANYM

An ananym is word coined by reversing the letters of an existing word, like yob from “boy,”emordnilap from “palindrome” (more on those later), and mho from “ohm”. Ananymic words are relatively rare, and you’re much more likely to come across them as proper nouns (like Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo company) or in fiction (like Samuel Butler’s Erewhon).

3. AUTOANTONYM

Also known as a contronym or a Janus word (after a dual-faced god in Roman mythology), anautoantonym is a word that can be its own opposite. So dusting a house implies removing a fine powder, while dusting for fingerprints involves applying a fine powder.

4. AUTOGLOSSONYM

You’ve probably seen lists of these in airports or hotels, on ATMs or travel documents, or if you’ve ever tried to change the language settings of a webpage or cellphone: anautoglossonym is the name of a language written in that language, like English, Français,Español or Deutsch.

5. AUTOLOGY & 6. HETEROLOGY

An autological word is word that describes itself. So short is short. Common isn’t rare.Unhyphenated doesn’t have a hyphen. Polysyllabic has more than one syllable.Pronounceable is perfectly pronounceable. And sesquipedalian is unquestionably sesquipedalian. The opposite is a heterological word. So rare isn’t rare. Long isn’t long (in fact it’s shorter than short). Hyphenated is unhyphenated. Symmetrical is asymmetrical.Monosyllabic is polysyllabic. And there’s nothing at all wrong with misspelled.

7. BACKRONYM

A backronym is a word or phrase mistakenly believed to be an acronym, which then becomes the subject of a “back-formed” (and completely untrue) etymology. So posh doesn’t stand for “port out, starboard home,” and golf doesn’t stand for “gentlemen only, ladies forbidden.” Nor does Adidas stand for “all day I dream about sport,” and SOS doesn’t mean “save our souls,” but is simply a memorable combination of dots and dashes (•••—•••) in Morse code.

8. CAPITONYM

A capitonym is a word whose meaning changes depending on whether it is capitalized or not, like Turkey and turkey, Polish and polish, or August and august. Most capitonyms are entirely coincidental and the two words in question are entirely unrelated, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes the difference between the two is much more subtle, like moon (any natural satellite) and Moon (our natural satellite, from which all others are named), or sun (a star at the centre of a solar system) and Sun (our star).

9. DEMONYM

A demonym is a word referring to or describing an inhabitant of a place, like New Zealander orParisian. In English, most demonyms behave fairly predictably and are formed using a suffix like –an (American), –ian (Canadian), –er (New Yorker), or –ese (Japanese) added to a place name. There are plenty of irregularities though, like Neapolitan (Naples), Glaswegian(Glasgow), Damascene (Damascus), Guamanian (Guam) and Monagasque (Monaco).

10. EMORDNILAP

If a palindrome is a word or phrase that spells the same backwards as forwards, then anemordnilap is a word that spells a completely different word when it is reversed. So bragbecomes grab, reward becomes drawer, stressed becomes desserts, and so on. Emordnilapitself is an emordnilap of course, but it’s also an ananym and an autological word.

11. ENDONYM & 12. EXONYM

An endonym is a word that the speakers of a language or the inhabitants of a particular region use to refer to themselves, their hometown or their surroundings. The opposite is an exonymor xenonym, which is an outside equivalent or foreign translation of a local name. So London is an endonym is you’re a Londoner, while the French name Londres would be an exonym. Sometimes endonyms overtake exonyms and become the official name for a location regardless of language, as is the case with Mumbai (formerly Bombay), Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Myanmar (Burma), and Uluru (Ayer’s Rock).

13. HOLONYM AND 14. MERONYM

In linguistics, the concepts of holonymy and meronymy refer to the relationship between parts and wholes – the “whole” is the holonym, and the “part” is the meronym. So a word like houseis a holonym that encompasses a group of meronyms like bedroom, bathroom, kitchen,doors, floors and walls. Body is a holonym for meronyms like arm, leg, head, stomach andfoot, and so on.

15. HOLOPHRASE

A holophrase is a single word used to sum up a full phrase or idea, like bouncebackability,ungetatable, or unputdownable. It takes its name from a linguistic phenomenon called holophrasis, whereby whole thoughts or sets of ideas are communicated by a single word or (as with babies first learning to speak) a single sound.

16. HOMOEOSEMANT

A homoeosemant is a word that has almost similar meaning to another, but not quite. Also known as “semi-synonyms,” homoeosematic words basically account for the ever so slight differences in meaning between sets of related words, like ask, question, probe, enquire,interview and interrogate.

17. HOMOPHENE

Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings and often (but not always) different spellings, like dough and doe, or maze and maize. Homophenes however are words that look the same as they are pronounced, and so can prove problematic to lip-readers—try covering your ears and getting someone to say the words Ben, men, and penand you’ll soon get the idea.

18. HYPERNYM & 19. HYPONYM

A hypernym is essentially an “umbrella” term, under which a number of more specific words known as hyponyms can be listed. Unlike holonyms and meronyms, which deal with parts of a whole, hypernyms work like categories into which the subordinate hyponyms can be grouped. So animal is a hypernym incorporating hyponyms like mammal, fish and bird. In turn mammalserves as a hypernym for another set of hyponyms, like dog, cat and mouse. And dog is a hypernym for words like spaniel, collie, and terrier, and so on.

20. OXYTONE, 21. PAROXTONE, AND 22. PROPAROXYTONE

An oxytone is a word with stress on its final syllable, like guiTAR. A paroxytone has its stress on the second to last syllable, like piAno. And a proparoxtone on the syllable before that, likeacCORdion. Originally used in reference to Ancient Greek, terms like these are used in English to account for the differences between homographic words like CONduct as in “good conduct” (a paroxytone), and conDUCT as in “to conduct an orchestra” (an oxytone).

23. RETRONYM

Coined by the journalist Frank Mankiewicz in the early 1980s, a retronym is a word that comes into being whenever a newer word or invention surpasses an older one, which then has to be renamed. So after electric guitars were invented, earlier non-electric guitars came to be known by the retronym acoustic guitars. The same thing happened with landline telephones,analogue clocks, field hockey, rugby union, silent films, 2D films, the French franc, BritishEnglish, George Bush Sr., and the First World War, which until the outbreak of the Second World War was known simply as “The Great War.”

24. TAUTONYM

A tautonym is a word made up of two (or more) identical, repeated parts. Normally this only applies to the scientific names of animals and plants, like the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) or the western lowland mountain gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), but it can also be used to describe words like goody-goody, tutu, piripiri, bye-bye and cha-cha-cha.

25. TROPONYM

A troponym is a word (more often than not a verb) that provides a more detailed description of something than a more general word can. That might sound like the definition of an adverb (like happily or slowly), but troponyms are more like a cross between hyponyms and homoeosemants in that they are used to provide a slightly different, slightly more specific account than a more general synonym might. As such, troponyms are hugely important to writers of fiction, who want to provide as accurate and evocative a description as possible. Take a simple sentence like “She walked into the room,” for instance, and then substitute walkwith strut, march, stumble, creep, flounce, stagger or jump and you’ll soon see how important they are.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2014 in African American News

 

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Stop Trying To Be So Efficient!

by Allan A.

It’s a go-go-go world. Read. Act. Write. Send. Repeat. We are just machines using machines to be faster machines. From the top down, we’ve all been instructed for decades to get things done more efficiently. What’s it gotten us?

Are law firms and accounting firms sending staff home because they worked so fast on their deliverables? Probably not.

Are software developers standing up from their cubicle mid-day to announce “Ok my part is done! See ya’all tomorrow!”? Ya right.

Are work-at-home professionals calling it quits early and logging off for the day because they quickly responded to every email? Not anyone I’ve ever known. Expectations of efficiency riding us from behind to hurry up, while the carrot of effectiveness gets dangled in front of us to bring quality results. What do we have to show for it?

A big pile of mistakes, frustrations, more work, and more time working – and we are ALL to blame. What I see now from the several thousands of people I interact with, is a trend of lower quality work products and communication, and everyone is keeping their mouth shut about it, because we are guilty of practicing it and encouraging it – and we are all paying a hefty price for it – our lost time and sanity.

I don’t want an accountant to do my taxes efficiently. I’m not excited about resubmitting corrections to the IRS because they made a few typos.

I don’t want an attorney to write our terms & conditions efficiently. Turns out lawsuits are even more costly than lawyers.

I don’t want a solution proposal to be done efficiently. Turns out no one likes scope creep after they buy. (Plus if I see a typo, I may discredit you and buy from someone else.)

I don’t want an assistant to make travel plans efficiently. My trip may either miss out on savings or be on a redeye or worse.

I don’t want marketing to get a campaign up efficiently. They might not deliver their best ideas.

I don’t want tech support to do their work efficiently. They might miss a step and create another problem.

Doesn’t seem like a healthy model to try to be efficient if it doesn’t get the job done in one shot. You are not helping your team, your career or your company. Instead, we ALL need to shift our mindset, motivation and reward systems on being effective.

If you are not sure what the difference is, I could tell you right here efficiently or you could find out effectively so you actually learn.

THE SOLUTION IS OUT THERE WAITING FOR YOU.

I’ve never met one person who read “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and disagreed with it. Did you think it would just efficiently get solved in one article? It’s going to take proactive effort on your part – on everyone’s part! As for my personal experience, it evolved who I am in a more positive way than any other business education I’ve ever had.

Every organization should build entire training and curriculum to train, nurture & reward these habits. What every leader needs to do is incorporate being an effective organization into their vision – starting with themselves first. What every manager needs to do is manage metrics & rewards on being effective. What every employee needs to do is make effectiveness their personal responsibility and learn to communicate that expectation to their peers and back up the command chain.

Practical Tips on Being Effective

While each company and individual has to come to grips on how to execute and implant the solution into their core being, here are some tips that can make the evolution to a more effective professional a little smoother. It is certainly helping me and our company.

Tip #1. Go to “You’re welcome”. This is my personal favorite. Do the job so well that you can confidently ask “Is there anything else I can do for you?”, receive a response “No thank you” and be the final say to the matter with “You’re welcome.” The other person will walk away with the feeling that they were helped and you were professional – a good sign that you were effective.

Tip #2. Communicate at your recipient’s level of understanding. Don’t E=MC2 unless you’re talking to another Einstein. Business communication is not about showing everyone how many big words you know. Keep your communication simple and always ask the person if they understand or if there is anything you can clarify for them. You are only as effective as the person that understands you.

Tip #3. Stop using your smartphone all the time! Since there are only 6 people left with blackberries, the rest of us have a hard time typing or dictating lengthy content with our touch screen phones. So we under-communicate, which spurs a series of replies, or dozens of replies if others are copied, which could have been communicated with one email if you took the time to compose your thoughts, instead of banging out another worthless email while waiting for your coffee.

Tip #4. Do not respond until you have the complete response. If you were asked 3 questions and only know the answer to 1, please don’t respond. You already suck with your smart phone. Don’t frustrate your recipient even more. Just flag it or save it in drafts and finish it later. When you make other people have to remind you to complete your commitment as your method of task-management, it just reminds them how unprofessional you are. So respond once, when you have all the information ready to respond and try to accomplish Tip #1.

Tip #5. Use Delay Delivery in Outlook often. The more complex the thought being communicated, the less desirable and beneficial for your immediate response. If you are certain you have the response, reply and hit Delay Delivery. Then later when the better thought occurs to you (and it usually will), you’ll be doing yourself and the recipient a favor by having time to edit it before it goes out. Plus no one needs your response immediately all the time, they have other work they are trying to do effectively.

Tip #6. Say “I don’t understand” often. Many people shy away from this because they think it will make them look less smart. It won’t. You’ll be helping yourself and the other person will usually try even harder to communicate even more clearly. You might have missed something anyway; you are trying to unlearn decades of poor work place habits of trying to being so efficient that has led to so many mistakes and re-work. Understand?

Tip #7. Verify your work! Did you complete a tax return? Check it over in detail even if you’ve done a 1000 like it before. Did you install software? Test it as the user would before you declare victory! Did you write a brief or scope of work? Proof read it before you send it out. The world is not here to verify your quickly-put-together work product for you and tell you to try again, that’s called “sucking at what you do”, even if you are the fastest at repeating it until you get it right.

Tip #8. Get closure. Ask “Are you satisfied with what I have provided?” Ask “Is there anything else I can do for you?” no matter how big or small what you completed. It makes people feel good about you, gives you a chance to truly deliver. Delivery happens when everyone signs off and you can get a chance to implement Tip #1.

If you implement these tips into everything you do at work, you will be reducing the mistakes, frustration and time spent working on activities.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2014 in African American News

 

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Why Isn’t ‘Arkansas’ Pronounced Like ‘Kansas’?

Kansas and Arkansas aren’t so far from each other on the map, but their names seem to want nothing to do with each other. Though they share all but two letters in common, Kansas comes out as “KANzis” and Arkansas as “ARkansaw.” Why so different?

Kansas was named for the Kansa, a Siouan tribe that lived in the region. The Kansa people were called, in plural, Kansas, and that became the name of the state. But before it did, English, French, and Spanish speakers, as well as speakers of various Native American languages, all came up with their own ways of pronouncing (and writing) the name of the tribe. The Kansa themselves pronounced it with a nasalized “a” (rather than a full “n”), a “z,” and an “eh” sound – approximately “kauzeh.” Everyone else had their own versions, and historical records show all kinds of spellings: Kansa, Kansas, Kantha, Kances, Konza, Kauzas, Canees, Canceys… Eventually, Kansas won out.

Arkansas was named for a related Siouan tribe, the Quapaw. The Algonquians called them “akansa,” joining their own a- prefix (used in front of ethnic groups) to the Kansa name (the same root as that for Kansas). The Algonquians’ name for the Quapaw was picked up by others, and was also spelled in various ways: Akancea, Acansea, Acansa. However, it was the French version, Arcansas, that became the basis for the eventual state name. In French the final plural s is not pronounced. Somehow, the English speakers that took over after the Louisiana Purchase decided to go with a modified French spelling along with a French pronunciation – an s on the page, but not on the tongue. (Incidentally, the name Ozark comes from French aux Arcs, short for aux Arcansas. And the same native word that became Wichita in Kansas went with the Frenchified spelling Ouachita in Arkansas.)

Actually, it took some time for Arkansans to come to agreement on pronunciation. In 1881, a heated disagreement between the state’s two senators, one who said “arKANzis” and the other who said “ARkansaw,” led to a ruling by the state legislature making the “ARkansaw” pronunciation official. Ever since, Americans have gone along with the s-less, first-syllable-stressed version of Arkansas. At least when it comes to the state name. The people of Kansas don’t go any further than that. For them it’s the “arKANzis” River, and “arKANzis” City.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2014 in African American News

 

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Where Did The Ampersand Symbol Come From?

IMAGE CREDIT:
ISTOCK

The symbol we know as the ampersand first appeared in some graffiti on a Pompeian wall around the first century A.D. It wasn’t called an “ampersand” at the time—it was just a ligature of the cursive letters “E” and “T” forming the Latin word et, which means “and.” (This is why “etc.” is sometimes written “&c”.)

At first, & had competition for use, as shorthand et—the “Tironian et” (⁊)—was created several hundred years before as part of Cicero’s secretary Tiro’s extensive shorthand system, thenotae Tironianae. But although it persisted into the Middle Ages, eventually the entire notae Tironianae fell out of use, leaving & to evolve and spread along with the language.

By the early nineteenth century, & was the 27th letter in the alphabet, coming right after Z. Without a title yet, it was still read as just “and,” which made reciting the end of the alphabet a little confusing—”X, Y, Z and and.” Kids starting inserting the phrase “and per se and” to distinguish it, and over time, this all got blended together to sound more and more like “ampersand.” The mondegreen name for the centuries old symbol first appeared in the dictionary in 1837.

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2014 in African American News

 

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Fare Thee Well, My Pen: The Demise of the Pen

Photo

CreditEllen Weinstein

The pen is dead. It was murdered by the finger.

I first realized this last week when my girlfriend asked to borrow a pen to sign the back of one of those paper check things.

“Sure,” I replied, picking up my laptop bag to rummage inside. I pulled out a succession of rectangular-shaped gadgets, but there was no pen to be found.

“Hmm, maybe we have one upstairs,” I said as we both began a detective-like search for anything that resembled a vessel for ink. We scoured the home office, kitchen drawers, bedrooms, even looking through our cars. But again, no pen.

After backtracking to figure out when I last saw a pen in the house, I realized it had been more than two months.

While my home is filled with multiple laptops, smartphones, tablets and other Internet-connected devices, there isn’t a single pen to be found. No ballpoint, fountain or rollerball. No highlighter, marker or even an itty bitty nub of a pencil.

Rumors of the pen’s demise have been around for almost two decades. The PalmPilot and early tablets were supposed to finish it off, replacing it with a pen look-alike called the “stylus.” That fake plastic thing proved to be slower and more expensive, however, so the pen lived to scribble another day.

But for me, the pen has finally lost its usefulness tothe finger and the touch screens it controls.

Unlike pens, fingers don’t run out of ink, they’re free and you always have one with you. I use mine to take notes on my phone, highlight books on my Kindle and draw pictures on my iPad. I don’t have to worry about losing this work because, unlike a piece of paper, my digital notes live in perpetuity online.

Until recently, financial transactions were among the last holdouts for the pen. But these days I pay my utility bills by opening an app and signing a screen. When I go to my local coffee shop, I sign an iPad with my finger. Theory, Apple and dozens of businesses I interact with have all eliminated pens (and styluses) in lieu of a finger and a screen. And, a couple of months ago when I bought a new home, I signed every document but one (which needed a notary public) using my iPhone. Think about that: I bought an entire house on my smartphone.

While I loved pens in the past, I have to admit, it’s a lot easier not using them.

“There’s that famous quote that the best camera is the one you have with you, and in that respect, the smartphone has won out over time,” saidNaveen Selvadurai, a partner at Expa Capital and a co-founder of Foursquare. “In the same sense, the best pen is the one you have with you, and that’s your finger.”

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007, he described the finger as “the best pointing device in the world.” And in typical Jobsian fashion, he seemed to know that fingers would be next big thing.

“Any technology that removes a step for people is often the one that ends up winning out,” Mr. Selvadurai said.

Not surprisingly, some pen makers have seen declines in the United States, including Bic, the maker of those iconic plastic disposable pens, which said sales of pens fell slightly last year. Bic is trying to reverse the decline, starting a “Fight for Your Write” campaign this year, which the company describes as a “crusade” to underscore the importance of handwriting.

Pam Allyn, literacy expert and spokeswoman for the campaign, said writing with a pen or pencil helps children develop a sense of identity. “It gives you the power of seeing yourself reflected back at you,” she said, though she also acknowledged that writing with a digital alternative can do the same.

And for every research paper showing that pens are better for learning or memory retention, there are competing studies showing that computers are superior.

For example, a yearlong study by Dr. Pere Marquès Graells, a director of research at the University of Barcelona, found that children who used tablets in the classroom had improved understanding of topics, were more creative and more capable of independent learning.

Dr. Graells, who interviewed 2,000 students and 150 teachers for the study, said that 87 percent of teachers reported that tablets helped students learn better.

A competing study by Pam A. Mueller, a researcher at Princeton University’s psychology department, found that people who took notes using pen and paper tended to retain more information than those who used keyboards.

The problem, Ms. Mueller wrote in the paper, “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard,” is that laptop note takers have a tendency to transcribe every detail, whereas pen note takers just jot down the important information.

There is one thing that the pro-pen and pro-computer camps agree on: The pen will eventually become obsolete.

“Everyone is shifting to a digital world,” Ms. Mueller said. “There may be room for pen and paper when putting up a sign or writing a birthday card, but for note taking and work, there’s no way of reversing the current changes.”

So it is with a heavy heart that I must bid the pen adieu. But don’t fret; the finger is here to take its place. Or, to quote a proverb often used at the end of eulogies, “What the caterpillar perceives is the end, to the butterfly is just the beginning.”

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2014 in African American News

 

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Africa: How to Make Sure the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit is on Positive Side of History

Photo: The White House Barack Obama (file photo). Photo: The White House
Barack Obama (file photo).

By Robin Renee Sanders

Washington, DC — In two weeks, we will witness a historic happening in Washington, DC, when for the first time, an American president will host African heads-of-state and government to discuss key issues impacting U.S. relations with that vibrant continent.

This event is a major step in the right direction for the United States. However, Africa hands and activists on both sides of the Atlantic and many African Leaders are asking why there will be no individual meetings with participating heads-of-states. China, France, and Japan have gotten this right. Their summits with African leaders include one-on-one meetings, even if they last only a few minutes.

I am not necessarily arguing for bilateral meetings, but what about five presidential sessions with the leaders of the west, central, east, south and north Africa regions? This option would not require an excessive amount of time (reportedly the reason for no one-on-ones). Considering the cost and time involved as these leaders travel to the United States with their (large) entourages and the respect-balance ratios at stake, shouldn’t we be able to manage five meetings?

Encouraging regional integration and cooperation has been a cornerstone of U.S. policy, and these sessions could advance the dialogue on key Summit agenda issues, including peace and security, governance, investment, and the Young Africa Leaders Initiative.

With Africa poised to become the most populous continent by 2050 and with the United States needing allies and partners on policy, business and counterterrorism, Africa is increasingly key to U.S. interests.

White House-level S. focus on Africa is welcome , and Summit themes are on target. Interactive dialogue, engagement, and partnership are the Summit’s stated goals. All good! Related events – starting with this month’s FEEEDS-Gallup-AllAfrica Forum – will address key related issues.

But we need to do something more to address Africa’s perception (not ours) of appropriateness. Thus, my suggestion to add regional meetings to the program. This could further concretize and synergize our positive rhetoric about raising the U.S.-Africa relationship in an unprecedented manner.

The meetings could each be tied to a theme – peace and security for west and/or central, given the challenges in Mali, Nigeria, Niger, and Central African Republic and related terrorism threats to U.S. national interest. East Africa discussions could focus on economic issues and perhaps energy.

The last three U.S. presidents, inclusive of President Obama, have done a tremendous job of changing the post-Cold War paradigm — creating signature initiatives –AGOAPEPFAR, the Millennium Challenge CorporationFEED the Future and YALI. I am pleased to been involved as a former U.S. diplomat with at least four of these and am proud of all the successes.

I am also pleased that this Summit is taking place – more than a decade after something similar was suggested in the AGOA legislation of 2000. My hope is for this event to be remembered in a good light. We talk about stemming views that the United States is not as serious about Africa as China, India, and newcomer Brazil. The Summit offers an opportunity to really do this.

We don’t want the footnote to be that the United States couldn’t find time to hold bilateral meetings. As I write, I remember taking part in the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit, which had about the same number of world leaders (49), where reports on the President’s schedule at that time listed 9-10 bilateral meetings, one of which I attended. However successfully the Summit plays out, the absence of heads-of-state meetings with the host president, even at the regional level, might be what is remembered most. And that would be a shame.

Calling the Summit historic should not be hyperbole! I am routing for the Summit to be remembered for all the things we did right, not for the one thing we left out. Let’s add regional meetings to the agenda to ensure that the event is a clear success.

Ambassador (Dr.) Robin Renee Sanders is CEO of FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative and FE3DS, LLC. As a former distinguished career U.S diplomat, she served as U.S. ambassador to Nigeria and the Republic of Congo. She is currently an Adjunct Professor & Public Service Scholar at Pittsburgh’s Robert Morris University, director of the U.S. Office of Songhai Farms, author of The Legendary Uli Women of Nigeria, and global advisor for the AGOA CSO Network. Follow her on Twitter @rrsafrica.

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2014 in African American News

 

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