Friday, August 3, 2018

English buzzwords as a power tool for German managers

One of the more insidious uses of language is not treated with the seriousness the blogster would like to see around the subject: management lingo in other languages peppered with English phrases.

You may think of Denglish, which brings up images of bumbling folks - regular everyday use or professional context - as well as voices warning of sinister Anglo-American cultural imperialism.

But there is a phenomenon that looks like standard Denglish but reflects an intra cultural struggle for power. When the topic comes up, it is dealt with in a humorous manner, dismissive and tongue in cheek, for example in this article by German daily WELT.

The language of management and its primary servants, the consultants, can be difficult enough to understand in its original English language and cultural setting but gains an additional dimension of complexity when bits and pieces are inserted into another culture.

The common uses, such as hype, pompousness, euphemism of the original can change in the new setting. the change can be as small as conveying "I speak a language you don't" or achieve new levels of obfuscation beyond what the phrase can do in a native environment.

Some of the 19 examples of phrase injection in the Welt piece do emphasize use of English as a means to ask for more power, to exert or demand compliance while softening the harshness by using a semi-English turn of phrase.

That gross and demeaning feature of English in a non-native setting is less tongue in cheek and more thong in cheek.

You are welcome.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Where have all the fruit trees gone...people cut them one by one

The blogster has always been fond of fruit trees, the incredible gift of food spanning generations. Sure almost all of the fruit and vegetables we eat today are the result of many generations tinkering with the plants, but fruit trees are about delayed gratification, something it* finds sublimely attractive.

Of the many posts about fruit and veggies on this blog, you might like the UBER for plums, apples, and berries one best because it brings together a new tech buzzword and traditional harvesting.

This post, though, is about loss - the loss of fruit trees, of the joy they brought, of the way they created and nourished the social bond of a community with its administration via the public works department's care of the trees and the fruit.

The blogster's city has a park at city hall like many other American cities. What distinguished this park from others around the nation was the kind of trees the city decided to plant in addition to the uninspiring elms, maples and the like: orange trees.

City workers not only maintained the orange trees, after all they maintain many other trees on public property. No, they took care of the harvest. As the oranges began to ripen late in the year, city workers would pick ripe oranges and place them in crates at the feet of the trees.

Residents and the errant tourist - there were few tourists around here in these days - would take as many oranges as they wanted. When the season was over, the workers would put the empty crates back into storage for the next year.

You don't have to be an overly sensitive or hyper romantic tree hugger to understand the bond between the residents, the orange trees, and city hall. The sense of ownership and care, of serving the community was obvious.

Then the 1980s or 1990s happened. City leaders decided the time had come to redevelop city plaza and its surroundings. You can imagine the fate of the orange trees. Planning documents of the time mention that many of the orange trees had outgrown their spaces, making the park crowded. There was also adjacent parking, which - as the planners phrased it - had 'impacted' the trees.

To make the story short, the orange trees lost the fight. The whole plaza was re-planted with more convenient trees, nothing that bears fruit and thus become a nuisance, a health hazard, or a public safety concern.

In the many decade the residents had enjoyed the orange trees and the annual free fruit no one had ever sued the city over the orange menace, but you never knew, you could not be careful enough. Don't ask the blogster if this  cautious approach also applied to hiring in the city police department.

Decades since the plaza redevelopment, the scars of the works have healed, and very few of the younger residents know about the orange trees.

* We are gender neutral around here. It is healthy.