Words of America: A Field Guide

National Endowment for Humanities • September/October 2011

"Road trip of the mind." This celebration of the publication of the Dictionary of American Regional English includes a sampling of the American dialectical idiosyncrasies that form a mental map of regional migrations based on language usage—for instance the greasy/greazy line that separates northern from southern speakers. Linguists, historians and other inquiring minds will find tidbits to ponder in this "bold synthesis of linguistic atlas and historical dictionary."

This review of a dictionary made me want to have it in my hand. There are some nice examples in the review that made me want more. And how can you not be intrigued by an academic project that prompted an inventory of regional words by asking open-ended questions like "What are some joking or uncomplimentary names for lawyers?" If you really need a list of those names, here you are. Little did I know that the avocets I see in the Baylands are called "lawyer birds" in some parts of the country. ( Michalko)

The Secret Life of Pronouns

New Scientist • September 7, 2011

Word watch. James Pennebaker's research on language and writing style yields fascinating insight into personality, mental health and world outlook. Read this and you'll never dash off a memo or e-mail without checking your article and pronoun usage again.

"I the and to a of that in it my is you was for have with he me on but." Certainly missing nouns and adjectives. Those are the twenty most commonly used words in the English language in rank order. See the graph. ( Michalko)

Innovation Starvation

World Policy Journal  • Fall 2011

From fiction to future. We can all point to dozens of technological achievements that grew out of the fictitious imaginings of science fiction writers over the past couple of centuries, but writer Neal Stephenson says more recently the genre has tended to focus on the darker side of hackers, cyberwarriors and robots run amok. He calls for a renewed emphasis on the benefits of technology that could stoke public enthusiasm for vital new endeavors: "The imperative to develop new technologies and implement them on a heroic scale no longer seems like the childish preoccupation of a few nerds with slide rules. It's the only way for the human race to escape from its current predicaments."

This is a brief apologia for science fiction and a call for more of the type that Stephenson doesn't really write. He's given to the "darker, more skeptical and ambiguous tone" that drives current styles. His remarks about SF are really just prefatory to his argument that we live in a time and a society that just can't get big things done. The New York Times recently had an interesting online discussion/debate that focused on "In what ways has science fiction foreshadowed actual discoveries and inventions? Where have writers been surprisingly off base (so far)?" Check it out. ( Michalko)

The Elastic Enterprise: How to Move Beyond Innovation (and Live Happily for a Change)

InnovationTools.com • September 27, 2011

Too many innovators spoil the soup. Our giddy infatuation with innovation is mucking with our moxie, says co-author Haydn Shaughnessy, whose most recent book, The Elastic Enterprise, maintains we should be focusing instead on how to change and transform enterprises, making them more adaptable and connected. In the meantime, engineers should be engineers and designers should be designers. Check out Shaughnessy's article and click to The Elastic Enterprise site for more reading.

I was ready to cheer the authors for their insistence that we identify too many things, processes, and activities as "innovation" and prescribe "innovation" when transformation is what's really required. Then they offered up their five new pillars that support enterprises that break the mold and it seemed like another mash-up of all the stuff on the landscape—cloud, platform—along with some phrases like "sapient leadership" that are either nonsense or require careful unpacking. One good phrase I hadn't heard was " radical adjacency." Think Apple's move into music and mobile. It's apparently all the rage in corporate strategy consulting circles. ( Michalko)

Why Education Without Creativity Isn't Enough

Fast Company • September 14, 2011

Report card. The U.S. education system has been criticized for lax standards and underperformance in STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math), but an Indian outsourcing mogul says the innovation combined with practical application fostered in American schools outshines the rote-learning model typical of his country. "In India it takes engineers two to three years to recover from the damage of the education system." Read on to find out what we're doing right in education and where we desperately need improvement.

I know this is a blog post not an academic article but I really wanted some evidence for some of the big broad generalizations—"The U.S. university system does a good job of prepping people for the high end" and "there's still a profound need for the social, discursive, American liberal-arts model." These are things I'd like to believe. ( Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, who is the most recent addition to the OCLC Research staff?

Get the answer.