Archive for the ‘ Language ’ Category

Whales, jumpers and spoons

Communication.  The key to the successful functioning of any organisation or social unit, yet something we seem to be terribly bad at.  Each day is filled with dozens of misunderstandings, ambiguities and missed opportunities to connect in any way.  Something which all trainee librarians learn is that the question being asked by a user is not necessarily the question they want answered, and even if it is, you may not understand it in quite the way it was intended.

The classic example is the librarian sat at an enquiry desk who is asked to help someone find information on ‘migration in whales’.  The immediate response is to send the user in the direction of biological information, specifically the behaviour of Cetaceans [599.51568 or thereabouts in Dewey].  However, it may be necessary to pause a while.  Did the librarian really hear an ‘h’, or did they just assume it?  Their enquirer might well have no interest in the movements of marine mammals, they may be researching economic migration in the United Kingdom, specifically in Wales.  Dewey would class a treatise on this subject with a hideously long number somewhere in the 300s, but journals and collections of statistics would be a more likely source for this information.

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Can someone strike the stage left flat?

Every profession and hobby has its own language, the words that make sense to those in the know, but sound like gibberish to everyone else.  Social groupings have them as well, of course, but these seem to serve a different purpose.  Professional jargon is what I’m talking about here, and specifically the jargon of the theatre.  Every production I’ve done as an adult has been in a professional theatre of some size or other, so I’m becoming a fairly fluent speaker, and every production has involved at least one first-time performer who had to get up to speed on theatre talk very quickly.

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Adventures in ontology

A number of recent events have come together to force me to write a post on the subject of ontology.  Firstly, there’s the ongoing debate about the classification of the stuff in the solar system, which has been fascinating to observe.  Secondly, there’s the terrifying fact that I’m about to begin my librarianship qualifications, which will immerse me yet deeper in the murky world of cataloguing.  And finally, I came across a link to an article called Ontology is Overrated, which caused my thinking on the subject to step up a gear.

But what is ontology?  Continue reading

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