Archive for the ‘beyond the dictionary’ Category

A lot of apologies are being thrown around in the news these days: Presidential candidates apologizing for past attitudes or behaviors, men apologizing for their actions towards women, parents apologizing for scamming Universities in order to get their children accepted.

So what is meant by the word apology and the derivative word apologetics?

The modern usage of apology means asking for forgiveness. It’s another way of saying you’re sorry about some behavior that offended someone. However, the original usage meant to explain one’s behavior or to defend oneself. It came from the Greek word apologia which means to “speak in return, to defend oneself.” Quite the opposite from what the examples listed here were doing! Over time the usage of the word evolved into our common meaning of “I’m sorry.”

However, the word apologetics retains its original intent when it is used by religious and philosophical schools. We’re familiar with it mostly as a branch of theology charged with the defense of Christianity’s beliefs. It means defending one’s faith (or just explaining it) when a non-Christian asks for more information.

What I find intriguing about the contrasting meaning of these two words is that if one apologized for unwanted sexual advances, would a person who refused to say he did wrong and defended his actions be considered “apologetic?” He wouldn’t be defending his “Christian Faith” but in the spirit of the word’s meaning he would be doing as Socrates (explained in his Apology) did in his public trial, explaining why he was innocent of various charges! In fact, in a non-sectarian way, that is exactly what happens in a court trial with each and every case.

My last post was about a word “intexticated” that not only was a clever take on intoxication but also was understandable in the message it tried to get across to the reader. Not all “created” words, clever though they may seem, clearly communicate their message. Here are excerpts from an article that appeared in Biz Bash, (Alesandra Dubin, Reader’s Forum, 2013 p52) a magazine that writes about the meeting and event industry, where you might chuckle at the speaker’s phrasing but wind up scratching your head as to what he meant.

In the article In Conversation Rohit Talwary the C.E.O. of United Kingdom based Fast Future Research, (where he applies his skills as a futurist to understand and project what’s ahead for the meeting and event industry) was interviewed about upcoming trends. Here are some of his head scratching gems:

“The consumerization of technology is turning us all into technology sophisticates and datasexuals.”  Datasexuals? When did data have the ability to be sexual? Don’t think I want to transgender myself into that!

“We have to stop thinking of our events as one-offs and start to see them as platforms for year-round engagement – the focal point of an ongoing experience.” Hmmm, meetings and events, in most people’s opinion, already take up too much of our time, so now they should be an “ongoing experience?” Yikes, count me out.

“Good business events…also connect industry investors with local innovators and help in attracting inward investment.” Is this like meditation? Or stock trading? He does go on to explain but it takes two long convoluted sentences to clarify this one point.

“Inevitably, those who fail to innovate and create new business models will go to the wall.” He never elaborates on what this “wall” means or what will happen when one goes to it.

“The best [event planners] have an excellent ecosystem of support mechanisms in place to help them stay abreast of developments…” A system, yes, but an “eco”system connotes something entirely different. Usually something green and alive!

As you can see, people who write or talk like this can be very entertaining without even trying. But if you are in a business communication situation, avoiding cleverness is usually the better path to take. To give him credit, he did elaborate on most of his unique statements. However, it is always better when writing a piece with the intent of imparting information to your reader to be concise and to the point, thus not wasting your reader’s time by making them wade through a mountain of confusing words to figure out what you meant.


I’m starting a new category focusing on words. “Beyond the Dictionary” will look at how the usage and meaning of common words change over time. Today’s word is “bread”.

Form of food prepared by baking or frying dough made from a ground grain. Can be leavened or unleavened, flat or in a loaf. Today there are hundreds of types of bread catering to all tastes.

At one point in history, bread was known as the “staff of life”. It was an important staple of most Western civilization’s diets. In some it became a form of currency (or the ingredients did). Hence the slang use of bread to mean cash. This is no longer in common usage. However the compound noun, breadwinner, is still in use. Thus the slang definition of bread lives on in “One who earns a living for his/her dependants”.

Bonus word: Loaf

 A form that bread can take. Also a synonym meaning to spend time idly. And morphed into a noun, loafer, meaning a casual shoe! (or as a verb a “loafer” is one who loafs!)