Cube Farm Fever Part II: The Wild of the Call

Hi, folks! It’s great to be talking to you again (or typing to you…you know what I mean). It’s been a wild 12 months. I have faced the loss of several loved ones. I have endured the ordeal of fixing a fractured ankle. On top of all of that, I have also returned to the work force (as of about a month ago). That has been a very welcome change. It finally gave my wife the opportunity to try to reshape the large gluteal impression in our couch. Plus, if nothing else, it gets me out of the house for a few hours. To be honest, I think even the cats were getting sick of me. Apparently, those months I spent hobbling around the house with an orange cast and a walker was somehow upsetting their routine of sleeping, eating, and fighting one another.

The new job places me back into a familiar environment: the call center. This is an environment in which I have worked several times over the last 8 years or so. Once I worked as a “professional fundraiser” for a non-profit organization. It paid bills for a short while but I hated being that guy that called someone as they were having spaghetti with their kids. Fortunately, the bulk of my call center experience has been in customer support. I have supported a variety of customer types ranging from end users (your average Joe consumer) to corporate officers and system administrators. I have also have the privilege of getting to known who have done call center support for other product types than I have. I have come to discover that, no matter what the product is being supported and no matter what customer type is involved, you basically deal with the same thing – people.

Now, when you are dealing with customer support (especially in a call center), you have to develop somewhat of a thick skin. Why is that? Think about it for a moment. Remember that time you had to make a call to dispute a bill you got in the mail? What about the call you had to make to return an item you ordered over the Internet? You know what I am talking about, don’t you? That time when you made that call and you may have not been the biggest ray of sunshine to the support agent on the other end of the phone; how did you treat the agent (or his superior when you decided to take it up a notch)?

Now, imagine being on the other end of that conversation. When the customer is having a bad experience, you get labeled as anything from “YOU PEOPLE!” to things I won’t repeat here (after all, this is a family show). It’s the job of the support agent (such as myself) to turn that experience around for the caller. More often than not, my fellow call center agents and I are able to resolve the issue at hand. Still, you have to endure the beatdown to get to that point and, sometimes, even when you resolve the issue, the customer still hates you because you are the focal point of their stress. Getting a few of those over the course of a shift can be stressful especially when the calls come one right after the other (and they typically do).

The good news is that there IS another extreme. There is also a significant number of callers who think you are a hero. You have seemingly made their day. These customers not only thank you for your work. They praise you to the ceiling (and sometimes even to your superiors). Once I had a customer who called with an issue. After I helped to resolve the issue, he emphatically thanked me. He said that I made his life easier. He then explained this his girlfriend of 25 years passed away suddenly several months previously. The day he called me with his issue, he was having a harder than usual time dealing with the grief and my help made him feel better. That call made me feel like the king of the call support world. That’s an even higher position that what Leonardo Di-What’sHisName achieved in that movie where he overacted (I know. Which one?)

Now this range of experiences can induce a different strain of what I previous identified as Cube Farm Fever. I call this strain The Wild of The Call (WoTC). The different extremes tend to tug you in a variety of directions. When you clock out, you are exhausted and drained. How does one combat this malaise that sometimes comes on a nightly basis? Well, for me, my approach comes from several angles. One is the fact that I was unemployed for nearly 11 months. The most stressful job in the world is better than unemployment. Besides, it’s hardly my most stressful job in my adult life. Another part of it comes from the blessing of having raised children to adulthood. Just like customer support, sometimes you are “YOU PEOPLE”. Sometimes, you are the hero. Just like customer support, those extremes can happen in the same day. The other approach that I take comes from my friend (who is also my karate instructor). Many days, when he knows I am stressed about (insert subject here), he tells me: “STOP! BREATHE! ACCEPT! ADAPT AND MOVE FORWARD!” The other karate-related philosophy is that the goal of any given day is to improve upon the previous day.  That helps stave off the WoTC in most cases.

Having said all that, the next time you have to call customer support for something: try to go a bit easy on them. You are talking to a human being. You’ll feel better for it (trust me). Also, fill out those surveys. If your experience was good or bad, your input has great potential to make an impact in the future. Thanks for reading this today. My name is Shane. Have a great day. (Whoa! The effects of WoTC must still be hanging on after my day off).

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What A Wonderful Word Vol. VI: The Relative Minor

Hello Everyone. I am back once again with a new collection of words for your education and amusement.I can’t believe I am doing a sixth volume of this. It’s so cool that once people in my circles find out that these volumes exist, I start getting suggestions for new words to add to the list. I truly cannot thank you folks enough for your input.

The other cool part with this being the sixth volume was that I learned a few things about the number six. The one that I found the most interesting that the the numbers 5 and 6 are part of what is called a Ruth-Aaron pair. As an Atlanta Braves fan, I found it cool that such a term exists. A Ruth-Aaron pair happens when consists of two consecutive integers (such as 5 and 6) for which the sums of the prime factors of each integer are equal. Since math is not my strong suit, I just read this off, shook my head and nodded knowingly. I also understand that there was supposed to an Ruth-Aaron-Bonds triplet but the third number never really matters and is always modified with an asterisk.

For those who may be unfamiliar with these installments, I’ll take a moment to lay out the rules of making such a list. Those of you who ARE familiar can please just smile and nod knowingly. First, it must be a real word that can be found in the dictionary (I used several dictionary sources). Secondly, keeping in the spirit of my blog, it must be family friendly. Lastly, if you could imagine Tigger saying the word, it had a good chance of making the list. The list has exactly 18 words. There are two main reasons for this number. First, the original list had 18 words. Secondly, keeping such a specific number in mind makes the challenge more interesting to me. I’d give a third and fourth reason but I promised you there’d be only two. People from all over send me words to use (and I come up with a few on my own as well). Many of the words I receive comply with the above rules so please feel free to contact me with a word for future volumes. If it lines up with the rules and hasn’t been used before, there’s a good chance I will use it. With that in mind, here is the sixth list.

  • andragogy – OK this word sounds funny to me, in part, because it sounds like the word is still partly lodged inside the throat. Phonetically is sounds like AN-druh-GAH-jee. The word refers to the methods or practices of teaching adult learners (such as yours truly at the present time). Every time, I here this word, I imagine a professor introducing herself to a classroom of education majors: “Hello, I am Andrea Gahjee. Why are you all giggling?”
  • bumfuzzle – This is a verb that means to confuse or perplex someone. It sounds made up but it truly is an honest to goodness, real word. My warped sense of humor makes me want to go out of my way to confuse someone badly enough that the other person will say that they are bumfuzzled. “Stop for a minute! You’ve got me all bumfuzzled!” OMIGOSH! YOU SAID IT! [I am now rolling on the floor cackling with laughter.]
  • cattywampus – I should clarify that there is an alternative spelling: catawampus. You hear this adjective a lot from Southern ladies (which is one of the reasons I like it so much). It can refer to something being placed in a diagonal position (“kitty cornered”). However, it usually refers to a situation that has gone quite awry. “Everything went all cattywampus after that storm took down my shed and the insurance adjuster, bless his heart, may as well have been speaking in gibberish and I got all bumfuzzled.”
  • diphthong – No, this has nothing to do with sandals or uncomfortable unmentionables. This is a phonetic term. It literally means “two tones”. A diphthong is what happens when two vowels are placed together in a word to form a single, one syllable sound. The word sound is one example. the “ou” in sound form an “ow” sound. So, when little Jimmy leaves a tack on his sister chair, his sister will scream: “OW!” Then Jimmy says: “Hey Mom, Sally used a diphthong!” Then when Mommy grounds Jimmy for his behavior, Jimmy uses another diphthong: “Aww! Gee! That’s at least two diphthongs with one tack. You’re welcome, Mom and Dad (and NO MORE TACKS, JIMMY!)
  • eenui – While, I know that this is a real word, part of me feels that it is a word that a promotes some circular thinking. Phonetically, the sound is AHN-wee. It refers to the restlessness or dissatisfaction one feels when they lack  mental simulation or amusement. In other words, the person is quite bored. However, they are SO incredibly bored that they do not wish to just use the word boredom. So when Jimmy’s mommy is explaining to him why it is not acceptable to put a tack in his sister’s chair (or anyone else’s for that matter), Jimmy’s eyes begin to roll. Jimmy’s mommy then lectures him about eye rolling during her lecture. Jimmy then asks: “Mommy, can we just forgo this incredible ennui of your superfluous lecture and consider me duly reprimanded?” Jimmy then utters more diphthongs as he is now eating supper in his room (with NO ELECTRONICS) while his bumfuzzled mother is perusing a dictionary and wondering how the lecture went cattywampus.
  • flabbergasted – I LOVE this word. It means to be greatly astonished by something or caught off guard. It’s also one of those words that you usually only hear one way. You hear about a person being flabbergasted but you seldom hear someone say: “I’m gonna flabbergast that dude.”
  • foppish – This is just one of those funny sounding words to me. I am not sure I would use it much personally. The term foppish refers to a person (men especially) that are unduly concerned about the manner of dress. I used to be stationed on a Marine Corps base in the 1980’s. Marines are some squared away individuals from top to bottom. Their everyday uniform is the epitome of sparkle and shine. As such, the uniforms require some proper daily maintenance in order to keep that proper uniform appearance. Still, there was always that one Marine that EVERY time you looked at them, they were inspecting their shoes, buffing their belt buckle for the 20th time in 30 minutes and adjusting their hat. Even in civilian circles, I would always run across a guy who would spend 20 minutes in front of the men’s room mirror adjusting their tie, tugging at their shirt cuffs, and checking the part in their hair. Some would call such a man foppish. I would simply tell him he has a loose thread on his shirt cuff and walk away.
  • huzzah – This word is used as an interjection to expression great joy or acclaim. Having said that, even a word nerd such as myself seldom uses such an interjection.  You are unlikely to hear someone say: “HUZZAH! Lebron James just won the NBA Finals.” Actually, you have likely NOT heard that FOUR TIMES!
  • largesse – No, I am not going to make a Jennifer Lopez joke here. This is a family show. Phonetically, it sounds like lar-JESS. It refers to the trait of giving away money or extreme generosity. I have a colleague who usually insists on paying for meals or movie tickets, for example, and would not accept reimbursement. He’s not doing this to show off. He simply finds the exercise of such largesse to be very rewarding. He even occasionally lets me buy lunch.
  • lollygag – I like this word not only because of the way it sounds. It just sounds to me like a word that would come from a stuffed shirt nanny or a gentleman’s gentleman. It simply means to wander around aimlessly or to be idle. I was going to use Mr. French as as example but many of you may be too young to get the reference. Besides, I want to use Alfred Pennyworth because Batman beats Family Affair any day of the week. Anyway, Alfred walks into the room where Bruce Wayne and his youthful ward, Dick Grayson, are talking about an upcoming dance at the high school. Aunt Harriet reminds the young ward that the dance ends promptly at 11:00 PM and he is to come straight home. Alfred them chimes in by stating that while he may feel free to spend five minutes mingling and meandering before heading home. He should not loiter or lollygag. He then whispers to Bruce: “It’s the Batphone, sir.” Bruce and Dick make up an excuse about needing to buy special socks for the sock hop and hurriedly leave the room. SEE? You can’t get that from Family Affair.
  • nonplussed – I see this word a lot when I am reading books for pleasure. The word refers to being surprised to such a degree that one does not quite know how to react. For example, a young man is in very good standing with his job. His boss offers him this once in a lifetime promotion. The new job is high paying, in a great location, and has tremendous opportunity for further growth. It’s also 500 miles from where they currently live. The young man and his wife are ecstatic. Their parents are nonplussed at this news. While they are all very happy for the young couple. They are also heartbroken. by the distance this will create. They are all simply so surprised by the news that they are unsure how to react. However, let’s say the parents DID know exactly how to react. No one would ever suggest that they were plussed. Weird, huh?
  • pedagogy – This is, of course, related to the first word in this volume (andragogy). This simply refers to the method or practice of teaching. Phonetically, it’s PED-uh-goh-jee. As a communications major, I look for excuses to use this word in essays so that I can hear its amusing pronunciation in my head. I wonder if my Learning Styles professor has the same amusement.
  • pshaw – This is another interjection. It sounds just like it is spelled (the p is not silent). It is used to express disbelief, impatience, or contempt. For example, Little Jimmy’s mommy is explaining to him that, while she is very proud of his ever expanding vocabulary, he must not use such words in a way that is disrespectful to his parents. Jimmy curtly responds: “Pshaw, Mother! Must you continue with this incessant rebuke of my verbiage?” Jimmy’s mother was initially nonplussed. When she collects her thoughts, she then sends him to his room and warns him that if he says one more word to her, he will need a laser surgeon to remove the diphthong from his verbiage. It’s about time Little Jimmy got his comeuppance.
  • pumpernickel – Yup, we are talking about a course dark bread made from rye. I am really not a huge fan (not as much as my son is). Still, I will occasionally go into a deli and order a pastrami on pumpernickel with a side spear pickle…just because I would enjoy saying it. It doesn’t take much to amuse me sometimes.
  • pundit – This word has a pretty simple meaning. It refers to someone who is considering to be an expert on a particular subject and is, therefore, sought out to give their opinion on that same subject. A movie critic, for example, might be sought out to offer an opinion on which movie will win the Academy Award for best picture. I also find it amusing that synonym for pundit is “talking head”. I prefer pundit because that way I won’t have the lyrics to And She Was stuck in my head.
  • quinoa – Quinoa, pronounce “KEEN-wah” is a grain that is becoming very popular due to its purported nutritional benefits. It’s just popular with me because the word sounds so funny. Because of this, I will change my deli order to a pastrami on pumpernickel with a spear sliced pickled and a side of quinoa. As a matter of fact, I might drag out the pronunciation as “KEEN-wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”. The initially nonplussed customers will soon start ordering it the same way (in five part harmony).
  • syllogism – This is another one of those academic terms. It refers to a logical argument which contains two statements and a conclusion. The conclusion is proven true if the preceding two statement are also true and correct. For example: a) A spider has eight legs. b) A spider is an arachnid. c) All arachnids are spiders. Mind you in this example, the conclusion is incorrect as scorpions are also arachnids. Still, this example allows you to say: “”SILL-oh-jiz-um” That hard G sound just makes it sound funny.
  • zarf – OK, this word jumped out at me during a search. A zarf is an ornamental holder for a hot coffee cup that has no handle. I love this word. Now, I am going to change my deli order for the final time to a  pastrami on pumpernickel with a spear sliced pickle, a side of quinoa and a zarf for my triple mocha, soy, half decaf cappuccino. As I leave the deli, the customers will begin chanting: KEEN-waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! ZARF!” The deli proprietor and I will start a social media campaign and share the profits on the t-shirt sales proceeds.

Well, there you have it, folks – another list of funny sounding words with legitimate uses. If you found that I omitted words from this list (or the previous volumes). Feel free to chime in as long as they meet the guidelines (funny and family friendly). I hope you enjoyed this list. I also hope that Little Jimmy is learning when to keep his little diphthongs to himself.

To Beard Or Not To Beard

A few months back, my wife Renee, younger daughter Brianna, and I decided to venture together in support of a worthy cause. We formed a team to participate in a charity walk to support the Arthritis Foundation. We did this largely to support Brianna who battles rheumatoid arthritis. We designed t-shirts. We networked via Facebook, Twitter, and Google+  to help raise funds for the walk.

I also performed another gesture as the walk got closer. I grew a beard. I was growing a “playoff beard”. About two months prior to the walk, I decided that I would grow a full beard and not shave it until I came home from the walk. I had done playoff beards before. I used to work on a technical support team that would grow beard during a two month season of peak support. Part of me would like the look. The other part would hate the itch. As much as I hate the task of shaving, I REALLY hate the itch. Some guys grow really nice beards. They occasionally stroke their beard while caught up in thought or conversation. It’s a very relaxed look and gesture. I, on the other hand, do not stroke my beard. I do not twiddle my whiskers as i get lost in thought. I scratch my beard. I scratch it frequently and furiously. The only thought that enraptures me in that moment is: DADGUM! THIS BEARD REALLY ITCHES!

The other thing that I noticed about growing my beard is that you suddenly get a lot of interaction from other men who are long time beardsmen. Women with beards are conversely much less engaging. It was like I suddenly became a new member of a secret organization. I got quite a few recommendations and endorsements of assorted combs and oils.  These bearded brothers in arms love their oils and swore to me that it would reduce my itching (and my swearing). When I would tell my hirsute heroes that I was planning to shave off my beard after the charity walk was done, you could sense that some of them were holding back tears.

The other trouble with the beard was that it had really become much greyer than in previous years. Yes, I understand that the rest of my head has become greyer as well. Still, there were many days that I would look in the mirror and say: OK! I know I am 49 years old but I am ONLY 49 years old. I was getting a few comparisons to Kenny Rogers, Red Green, and Santa Claus. It was hardly a ringing endorsement to keep the beard.

True to my word, the walk came. I did two laps around the trail (a total distance of 5 kilometers). We all gathered together after the walk, exchanged hugs, and headed home. Once I got home, I headed upstairs and reached for the clippers. I took a pre-shave picture and a post shave picture and posted them up on Facebook.

This was when I REALLY started to get some responses. A couple of my former teachers told me that my beard made me look handsome and distinguished. Others chimed in and complimented the beard. My older son, Tom, was disappointed that I shaved but he sports a much nicer beard than mine. One friend compared me to the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I’m still not sure how to take that one.

The best feedback came from my old friend Brian. Brian is an ordained pastor for a church in Savannah, GA. I have known Brian since 9th grade. Brian told me that I should grow my beard back. He even backed it up with scripture: “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.” (Proverbs 16:31). I told Brian that I took issue with how old it made me look. Brian reminded me that it is a blessing to live for half a century. THAT was tough to argue. I then told Brian that my other concern was also found in the Bible: “But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.” (I Cor 7:33) It was at this point that Brian began to backpedal. Brian’s basic response is: “Happy wife. Happy life.” Brian is apparently a much wiser man than I thought.

A Curl For A Curl

Howdy Folks! It’s good to be back in the writer’s chair. Before I get into today’s topic, let me just quickly state that I truly appreciate all the support that quite a few of you have given me over my installments of “What A Wonderful Word”. More installments will be coming and I am considering compiling the volumes toward a book but more on that later.

To bring you up to date on another aspect of my life, my wife and I joined a gym at the beginning of this year. My wife and I have weight loss goals which include preparation for our son’s wedding this coming October. The gym membership has had numerous benefits. It provides me with an opportunity to bond with my wife on another level. Of course, the chance to improve my health is a benefit in and of itself. One of the things that motivates me to go to the gym (aside from the number on the scale) is the fact that the gym is less than a five minute drive from my house. I have to drive, walk, or ride my bike past it almost daily. In other worse, I get to associate a building with the absence of the monthly fee money.

Of course, some of you know that I have been on the fitness wagon before. It’s definitely better to be on this wagon than off of it. The reason is that when I go off the wagon, I tend to weigh more than the wagon itself. Of course, this also means that I must (at least three times a week) face two words that make me cringe: fitness circuit.

The fitness circuit is a serious of exercise machines that help you to work muscle groups over the entire body. I have already learned that that are certain machines for which I absolutely have grown a strong dislike (and that is putting it mildly). These machines include the use of verbs such as press, curl, and crunch. It sounds more like a place where a contortionist would audition for a gig.

I can easily declare that if the machine has the word “curl” in it, I am NOT going to like the experience. I sit there doing these very unpleasant exercises and think about all of the times in my life the word “curl” has brought me to this place of penance known as the fitness circuit. Those cheesy snacks that I love so much have a very appealing curl. More than one fast food place serves those delectable fries that curl. Cinnamon rolls? Yup! Another mountain of curly frosted sin. All of those wonderful curly items have brought me to a machine that makes me pay for every consumed curl. It is like I have a Levitical relationship with the fitness circuit. Since I have enjoyed those wonderful curls so much, I must now be subject to them. I must repay a curl for a curl.

Of course, I will yield rewards for every curl, press, lunge, fly, row, and pull-down. I might even get a six pack (since I’ve consumed quite a few sodas over the years).

Finding the AweWow Gland

It started out as a typical Saturday morning. My wife and daughter had some errands to run. As tempting as it was to tag along and surf the waves of estrogen, I decided instead to roam the mall. I like roaming the mall alone. I walk with nothing more than my writing pad. I have found that observing the people, stores, and surroundings of the mall can provide a great source for writing material. I always find something different each time. It can be someone I met, something on display or people who (intentionally or not) make a display of themselves. This Saturday was no exception.

I started off in the bookstore (as I typically do). This helps me to enjoy my exploration with a clear mind. Somehow it helps to cleanse the mental palate. As I worked out of the bookstore, I turned to my left so that I could cover the greatest mall distance. I easily walked not more than 20 feet before my eyes and mind were treated to wonderful visions of beauty. I am talking about sights so beautiful that most men would swoon and drop to their knees. Was it a fashion show? No siree, buddy. It was a car show.

Now, I am not a car aficionado by any stretch of the imagination. I wouldn’t be able to tell you that a 1965 Mustang K series engine came in at 289 cubic inches with 271 horsepower and 10.5:1 compression and a four barrel carburetor unless I went out of my way to look it up (I did). As a matter of fact, I will probably have auto-philes and Mustang fanatics tell me that I just said that entirely wrong. I’m OK with that. Such spewing of facts is usually done around auto-philes to show that you are an authority on the subject (or at least give the illusion) while your friends go “Yup!” and smile with a knowing nod. This allows to to either pass along the same illusion of authority or act in kindness to not expose that you lack it (auto-philes are cool that way).

Still, there’s nothing like a really cool car that has an effect upon any guy who gazes upon it. It stimulates part of the male endocrine system know as the Awewow gland. The gland is located somewhere between the salivary glands and the brain. Doctors have been unable to pinpoint the location of the gland but have been able to verify its presence at every car show. It is called an Awewow gland because whenever a man sees a sweet car, he stops dead in his tracks and says: “AWWWWW! WOWWWWWWWWWWWWW!” It is also shown to be highly active during Super Bowl Sunday and any time that Eddie Van Halen plays Eruption. If they are around other guys, it provokes arm grabbing and elbow poking to draw the other guy’s focus toward the object of desire. It can also be followed by exclamations of: “DUDE! “DUDE! “DUDE! “DUDE!  Soon, two or more guys are going: “AWWWWW! WOWWWWWWWWWWWWW!” in multi-part harmony. Legend has it that a prison riot in 1976 at Poundrock State prison was brought to a grinding halt when a quick thinking prison guard displayed a picture of his 1967 fire engine red Corvette. Suddenly, more than 100 inmates in jumpsuits dropped their handmade weaponry and began saying: “AWWWWW! WOWWWWWWWWWWWWW! DUDE! DUDE! DUDE! DUDE!”  Some say that the the harmonious chanting could be heard as far as 10 miles away.

I couldn’t JUST stand in awe of these cars.  I took out my mobile phone and started snapping pictures of these wonderful machines (Yup! It’s another bulleted list):

  • 1973 lime green Pontiac Firebird
  • 1968 turquoise Olds Cutlass
  • 1965 sky blue Mustang. My dad used to have this same model but his was royal blue.
  • 1956 burgundy/white Chevy Bel-Air. This one was really cool because it had a rose etched into the quarter glass.
  • 1971 black/white Chevy Chevelle. This color theme was accentuated throughout the car with plush skunks.

As sweet as all of these cars were to see, I got the biggest AweWow stimulation when I gazed upon a 1939 lemon yellow Lincoln Zephyr. This car wasn’t just a display. It was a SHOW! The car had suicide doors. The engine was decorated with blinking Christmas lights. On display inside the trunk was a replica of the Zephyr right down to the lemon yellow finish. To top it all off, there was a mannequin wearing a yellow baseball hat, a yellow scarf,  crème pumps, and fishnet stockings. 

It was shortly after this that my wife called to pick me up. I put away my handwritten observations and my mobile phone and met them outside. Of course, I couldn’t resist the photos with my son in law (an auto-phile). When he saw the photo of the 1956 Bel-Air he couldn’t stop himself: “AWWWWW! WOWWWWWWWWWWWWW! DUDE! DUDE! DUDE! DUDE!”

What A Wonderful Word Vol. IV: The Return of the Son of the Bride.

Howdy! Howdy Howdy, Folks! Here we are, once again’, gathering and learning words. What kind of words, you ask? That’s a good question, folks. We are here to learn words that are worth learning to increase your wordy wealth. This is the fourth installment in the series (and I’ve passed the savings onto you).

For those who may be unfamiliar with these installments, I’ll take a moment to lay out the rules of making such a list. Those of you who ARE familiar can just sit and relax for a moment. First, it must be a real word that can be found in the dictionary (I used several dictionary sources). Secondly, keeping in the spirit of my blog, it must be family friendly. Lastly, if you could imagine Tigger saying the word, it had a good chance of making the list. The list has exactly 18 words. There are two main reasons for this number. First, the original list had 18 words. Secondly, keeping such a specific number in mind makes the challenge more interesting to me. I’d give a third and fourth reason but I promised you there’d be only two. People from all over send me words to use (and I come up with a few on my own as well). Many of the words I receive comply with the above rules so please feel free to contact me with a word for future volumes. If it lines up with the rules and hasn’t been used before, there’s a good chance I will use it. With that in mind, here is the fourth list.

  • abligurition – This one was sent to me by a long time friend. While the word’s use IS somewhat outdated, I still couldn’t resist using this word in the list because it just sounds WAY too funny. Anyway, abligurition refers to spending lavish amounts of money on fine foods. It describes a fondness for delicacies. A person who is showing abligurition will choose to have foie gras on a cracker in lieu of a liverwurst sandwich. He will choose pheasant under glass over a bucket of chicken. “The two friends decided not to have breakfast after work. One had an abligurition for quails eggs and potato galettes. The other just wanted to go to the Waffle House and get a ham and cheese omelette with his hash browns covered and chunked”.
  • attitudinal – When I first heard my daughter use this word, I honestly thought she was just making it up. My daughter is an intelligent woman, she is just not a word nerd like her father. As the word implies, this adjective simply means that a person’s behavior or actions are based on their particular feelings on an issue (ones attitude if you will). “I feel that the senator’s decision to propose a harsh leash law is not based on the concerns of her constituents. Her stance is likely attitudinal due to the fact that she was bitten on the ankle by her neighbor’s chihuahua.
  • befuddle – This is definitely a word that is hard for me to use or hear without giggling a little bit inside. It seems to me that if someone is using the word “befuddle” they are quite possibly, deliberately trying to sound funny. It simply means to confuse someone with one’s words or action. Salesmen befuddle consumers to make a sale (some salesmen not all). Politicians befuddle their constituents in press releases (most politicians not all). Athletes use sports jargon and double talk to befuddle reporters and spectators to explain why they just lost a playoff game (every single, solitary one of them). But that’s not the cool part, the cool part is that the word can also mean to stupefy one with alcohol. This means that a malicious  soul can create a circle of befuddlement by getting someone intoxicated then using a bunch of double talk to confuse them. It’s a terrible thing to do but the point is that you can befuddle someone then befuddle the already befuddled individual again. “The senator tried to befuddle her constituency by using bunch of bleeding heart legal jargon to explain her attitudinal stance on the proposed new lease law.  Still, one couldn’t help but notice the tiny, canine teeth marks on her ankles”.
  • brouhaha – I LOVE this word. It sounds like someone is laughing when they are saying it (“You just said it, didn’t you?”) A brouhaha is great excitement or concern about something. It can also be used to describe an uproar. “The senator’s proposed new leash law created an extraordinary brouhaha among her constituents. Many outraged citizens marched with their chihuahuas to the capitol steps to express their disapproval. Unfortunately, this also resulted in many protesters receiving fines for violating the litter laws”.
  • effulgent – This was another word that was provided for me by a someone else. A colleague learned this one from one of her word of the day calendars. The word refers to brightness or radiance. The hard G in the word makes it sound less than complimentary which is probably why it made its way onto this list. “The young man gazed into the lady’s eyes and said he could not help but be exhilarated by her pulchritudinous effulgence. His friend walked up and told her she looked pretty in the dress she was wearing. The former young man received a wedding invitation from the new couple a year later.”
  • elation – This word has a very special meaning to me right now. The word means to be filled with joy and happiness. Someone I know recently had a bit of a scare medically speaking. He got word from his doctor that the situation was not as severe as they thought it could have been. When he told me this he said that he could not truly describe his elation. I was beyond happy for him. I also love that fact that cannot truly use the word without being somewhat elated. “Imagine my elation to open my refrigerator at 3 AM and discover 3 pieces of leftover fried chicken.”
  • knickerbocker – It was my younger daughter, Brianna, who insisted that I include this word. She absolutely cannot hear or say the word without laughing. The word refers to a descendant of the Dutch settlers of New York. It can also refer to any New Yorker. It has also been abbreviated to knickers to describe pants that reach just below the knee. Kickerbocker was actually, at one time, the team name for the New York Knicks. I am sure the reference is geographical and not one of fashion. If YOU want to ask Ama’re Stoudemire about it, you go right ahead. I assume no responsibility for the outcome. I won’t use this one in a sentence as it is primarily used by ignorant tourists and historians.
  • parameterize – This one definitely sounds made up but ,lo and behold, it’s a real word. It refers to breaking down or expressing things by using limits or boundaries. I, personally get the impression that if someone is using this word, they are either putting to much thought into something or they are trying to muddy up an issue. “When he explained that he was going to parameterize his music collection by their respective genres, sub-genres, and release dates; I immediately realized he needed to get out of the house and bought two tickets to the tractor pull”.
  • pinking shears – Yes, I know its two words but at the end of the day, I make the editorial decisions. Pinking shears are scissors that are used for cutting cloth. The blade edges form a zigzag pattern for the cut. I only learned recently that the purpose behind this zigzag pattern is to reduce fraying and damage to the woven cloth. “My roommate realized immediately that I was not a gifted cook when he saw me used pinking shears to separate a chicken. However,  I could not explain why I owned pinking shears since I do not own a sewing machine.”
  • prognosticate – This is definitely one of those word nerd words. To prognosticate is to foretell of an upcoming event using present signs or conditions. A meteorologist,  for example, can prognosticate an impending storm based upon current and recent weather patterns. “Given the public’s outcry over the senator’s proposed new leash law, her staff were able to prognosticate the repercussions during the forthcoming elections. They were also able to advise the best route home (e.g. avoid the capitol steps).”
  • puzzlement – This word alludes to a previous word in this list. It simply refers to the state of being puzzled by something. “The senator was completely oblivious to the sentiment of her constituency. Her puzzlement was very apparent on the news bulletin which shows dozens of barking robotic chihuahuas all yapping in unison on her front lawn.”
  • quixotic – This is a word I absolutely love. It is a reference to the novel of Don Quixote which was written by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Actually, the full title is The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. The character of Don Quixote is one who passionately pursued his endeavor no matter how hopeless, no matter how far (Did you really think I was going to let that one get by me?) He was also portrayed as one who was a couple of bricks shy of a full load. The term quixotic describes one’s actions as being somewhat impulsive or idealistic and could have devastating outcomes. I personally think that if one is being told their plans are quixotic, they should look the word up to give more time to consider their decisions. “The senator’s advisors told her that her proposed new leash law was unduly harsh and rather quixotic. The senator scoffed at their remarks and walked away with a noticeable limp.”
  • skullduggery – This word describes underhanded dealings or deceit. I like it because it makes one sound like a pirate every time it is uttered (You just said it, didn’t you?) “Several on the senator’s staffed resigned immediately when she accuse them of skullduggery and sympathizing with a pro-chihuahua lobby. Another advisor was terminated when the senator discovered a hand drawn picture of her likeness wearing an eye patch”
  • smarmy – This word is clearly negative in its connotation. It refers to one that is insincerely flattering in their speech and actions. Imagine a hotel bellhop who compliments patrons that tip generously and you get the idea. “The senator’s smarmy assistant was clearly trying to protect his job when  he gushingly complimented the way the senator’s ankle bandage accessorized her fashion ensemble.”
  • snarky – This word will be forever lodged in my brain. It refers to speech or actions that are disrespectful or critical in tone.  I became rather irritated with someone at work once. In an effort to control my irritation, I fired off an email to this person that was very short and to the point (or so I thought at the time). My team manager (who was included in the email exchange) privately told me that my email was “…rather snarky and not very helpful.” I (eventually) took his criticism in the spirit in which it was given. Even today, we still occasionally joke about responses have certain “levels of snark”. This is especially important for me to consider the lesson I learned from that email as I am now also a team manager. “The senator gave a very snarky response to the journalist who asked if she was considering levying a tax on chihuahua owners.”
  • spatchcock – I want to buy a grill just so I can use this word more often. I picture speaking to my food like a brilliant English director while I grill it. “Good eeevening, Mr. Chicken. My name is Captain Spatchcock”. Anyway, the word means to dress and split a chick for the purpose of roasting on a spit. “While his friend has an abligurition for spatchcocked fowl. He prefers to just fire up his grill and roast some chicken”.
  • unctuous – This is another one of those words that alludes to a previous word in the list. Like smarmy, it also refers to words or actions that are complimentary but insincere in tone. I like it because the hard C in the word makes it sound rather accusatory. “Having greeted him (along with her now husband), the newly wedded bride could not help but notice the gentleman’s unctuous tone as he complimented how lovely she looked in her bridal gown. She also couldn’t help but notice that, once again, he did not have a date.”
  • wonky – I had to end this list with a word that I could say over and over again ALL DAY LONG. It’s a word I want to teach to five year olds so that they can say it ALL DAY LONG (You’re welcome, Mom and Dad). It means that something or someone is off center or off kilter. It can refer to someone’s or some thing’s irregular or problematic behavior.  In short, it says that something isn’t quite right. “The senator’s behavior became quite erratic in the wake of the leash law scandal. Most authorities concluded that she simply couldn’t handle the stress anymore. Still, many rumors were circulating that the senator’s maniacal laughter and wonky smile were due to having contracted rabies”.

Well, there you have it, folks – another list of funny sounding words with legitimate uses. If you found that I omitted words from this list (or the previous volumes). Feel free to chime in as long as they meet the guidelines (funny and family friendly). I hope you enjoyed this list. I also fervently hope that the senator gets 400 hours of community service caring for rescued chihuahuas.

Blessings Are Intense (Past, Present and Future)

I have spent the last four and a half years working on a Tier I technical support team. I applied and interviewed for this job after being laid off from a contract job as a software tester. This work has a daily exercise of communicating with colleagues (who are often seated less than a foot away from me) as we work together to resolve issues reported by our clients (who are located all over the world).

When I first took the job, I felt very nervous about the learning curve. Technical support was a noticeably different role than software tester. I leaned a lot on my more experienced peers in the beginning. Over the months that follow, I was able to retain more and more of the knowledge I was picking up and work somewhat more independently. About a year and a half later, I earned a promotion. The new position involved more leadership and coaching. It also came with its series of adjustments and learning curves. I would like to tell you I gracefully accepted each learning challenge easily but honesty forbids me to do so. I would come to learn more than once that is is sometimes just as challenging (if not more so) to be the one DOING the coaching than to be the one receiving the coaching.

Fast forward to today. Three years have past since that promotion. After a series of interviews with my boss and the the folks in human relations, I have been offered (and accepted) a promotion to a new position within the same company. This new position continues the evolution of my leadership and coaching roles. One of the rubs in this new position is that I will be leading a team for a completely different client than the work for which I have served for the last 4 and a half years. I will no longer be sitting and working alongside the same group of people whom I have had the privilege of call my peers. I get to learn a new client, a new product, a new set of processes and a new team. Like the previous positions, it will involve challenges and learning curves. But I have come to learn over my adult years that a job that shows no learning opportunities indicates one of two things: a) I am not a good fit for that job (or vice versa) or b) I am not looking in the right places to find such opportunities.

Although I am very excited and humbled about this promotion, I found myself being forced to reflect on the state of my life ten years ago at this time. Ten years ago at this time, I was unemployed. The unemployment came as the result of a layoff from a contract job as a software tester (Yes, I see the pattern too). The layoff came in November of 2002. As of January 2004, I was not only STILL unemployed but my unemployment benefits had exhausted. I was without a steady source of income and was unable to retain employment anywhere. The job market was THAT bad. The streak of unemployment would last another 4 months. It was a ROUGH ride but my family and I got through it.

So, these changes in circumstances provoke some questions. I ask myself these questions as a means to keep my ego in check. My wife and kids might argue that I ask these question simply because I like to hear myself talk. Still the questions (and my responses) are as follows (YUP! You guessed it. It’s a bulleted list:

  • Did you get your second promotion in 3 years because of your enormous talents? Yes and no. While there was SOME talent involved. I wouldn’t have some of those skill sets without the influence of my colleagues an my superiors who have invested in my development. My boss wasn’t won over by me doing a Jedi mind trick. I know this because my new job does not include a company car nor a Lear jet (and my boss kept asking why I constantly wore a brown hoodie and stared intently during the interview).
  • So, if it wasn’t talent alone, did you get the promotion because you simply got lucky? That is a simple and emphatic NO! First of all, I am not a proponent of luck. Lottery winners aren’t lucky. The laws of probability played in their favor. Furthermore, calling it luck implies that I did nothing to earn the position and that my boss doesn’t have the gumption to make a decision. You will never convince me that either of those premises are true.
  • OK, so if it isn’t luck and it isn’t talent alone (as you pompously previously asserted), then what IS it? That answer is also simple. I have been BLESSED. I was blessed ten years ago during that stretch of unemployment. During that time, my family never was without clothing, food or a home. It was not an ideal situation and it was a hug toll emotionally. Still, I was blessed. If I can see that I was blessed during an ordeal such as that, you can rest assured that I KNOW I am blessed now.

The job that I have held over the last four years has been very rewarding. I am very grateful to have worked alongside such great people. Still, I look forward to the new memories that will be created alongside a new team. Jim Croce wrote a beautiful love song about saving time in a bottle. I love Croce’s music and songwriting but I don’t intend just to bottle away good memories. I intend to take the bottle and christen the ship of my future. OK, that was WAY too pompous for even me. Let me put it in a way like my Dad would say it. In short, I intend to take my blessing and pray for lockjaw.

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