I’m Speaking English, Why Aren’t You Understanding Me?

Every so often, I have the realization that my normal vernacular isn’t always shared by the majority of the populace. Sometimes, it’s because of the subcultures that I run in (What do you mean you’ve never heard of Cthulhu?). Sometimes, it’s technical jargon that I’ve learned to take for granted (Why are you going to all those websites when you could use an RSS Reader? What do you mean, what’s RSS?). And sometimes, it’s because of my circle of friends proclivity to use, as one of them so eloquently puts it, “five-dollar words.” The real humor comes when I am completely unaware that the word I am using is not in common usage. It gets worse when I can’t comprehend how a person doesn’t understand the word I’m using, mostly because I have no poker face.

An example of this was when I was working as a manager at Mickey D’s. One of the other managers and I had, to put it politely, a personality clash. To be blunt, I thought she was an idiot. Then this occurred, which really kind of soured the relationship.

Her: Derek, you tied your tie too short.

Me (with my normal sarcasm): Please don’t preach to me about your archaic fashion ideas.

Her (very annoyed): Why do you always use those big words?

Me (confused): Which word?

Her: Archaic.

Me: You couldn’t figure it out from the context?

Her: You don’t have to be so condescending to me. I have a degree in education.

Me: And you’ve never even heard of the term “archaic”?

Her: Where would I have come across that word?

Me (in an overly smug tone): Thank you for demonstrating why we in the business school have stereotypes about those of you in the education school.

For the record, I made that last comment just to piss her off. It was one of my few joys during that period of that job. Granted, she’s not a representative sample of the population. This was the same woman who got a degree in elementary education before realizing she didn’t like working with elementary-age children, and then went to work at Mickey D’s because it was the only job she felt she could get.

Why do I bring up this particular anecdote (other than it amuses the hell out of me)? Because I, as a writer and occasional presenter, have to remember that my audience isn’t exactly like me. I like using terms that are as precise as possible, but aren’t in common usage. This is a particularly difficult issue when talking to another person about skeptical, atheist, or even gun rights issues. A good example of this is XKCD’s Up Goer 5 comic. This is explaining the Saturn 5 program using the 1,000 most common words in the English language. It’s a little bit of taking the issue to the extreme, but it does remind me to try and moderate my speech to my audience. It doesn’t mean I can’t occasionally throw in a technical or subculture term (or even a “five-dollar word”). It just means I have to make sure that if I do, the meaning can be extrapolated from the context. Or at least provide some hyperlinks so the reader can easily look it up.

What do you mean I can’t call them “space marines?”

From BoingBoing, an article about Games Workshop going apeshit about other science fiction using the term “space marines.”

From MCA Hogarth who is quoted in the article.

I used to own a registered trademark. I understand the legal obligations of trademark holders to protect their IP. A Games Workshop trademark of the term “Adeptus Astartes” is completely understandable. But they’ve chosen instead to co-opt the legacy of science fiction writers who laid the groundwork for their success.

This is utter bullshit that Games Workshop will get away with until they run into someone with the resources to legally tell them to go to hell. Or someone who like Simon Singh will become a cause celeb for science fiction.

My first love is writing military science fiction. I have dozens of unpublished stories with “space marines.” The feisty part of me wants to rush one of them to Amazon to bait Games Workshop. My accountant mind is telling me that I just don’t have the resources to go into an extended battle with a well-established gaming company.

I’m not into the Warhammer 40K universe, so my boycotting them will have no effect. If you do buy their products, please take this into account when doing business with them in the future.

New Monter Hunter Novel Will Always Take Precedence

Monster Hunter Legion, the latest in the Monster Hunter series by the Larry Corriea released this week. I am grateful that the audio version dropped the same week as the dead-tree version. First, because I don’t have to spend long weeks avoiding spoilers in the gun blogs. Secondly, in my day job, there are long stretches that I can fill up with podcasts or audiobooks. The audio versions of the MH books are awesome and are part of my normal “EDC” of audiobooks on my phone. I’ve listened to just over half so far, and Legion is keeping up with its predecessors and looks to surpass.

A special congratualtions and thank you goes out to Robb Allen, whose Tampa-based MHI team was included in this book. As a fellow resident of Tampa, it was exciting to hear the Sticks of Fire team mentioned. May he enjoy his contribution to the MH-verse to the fullest extent possible. (Slightly jealous because in my infite stupidity, I didn’t get my own team submitted in time).