Did you know the origins of these sayings?!

Early aircraft’s throttles had a ball on the end of it, in order to go full throttle the pilot had to push the throttle all the way forward into the wall of the instrument panel. Hence “balls to the wall” for going very fast.

During WWII , U.S. airplanes were armed with belts of bullets which they would shoot during dogfights and on strafing runs. These belts were folded into the wing compartments that fed their machine guns. These belts measure 27 feet and contained hundreds of rounds of bullets. Often times, the pilots would return from their missions having expended all of their bullets on various targets. They would say, “I gave them the whole nine yards,” meaning they used up all of their ammunition.

In George Washington’s days, there were no cameras. One’s image was either sculpted or painted. Some paintings of George Washington showed him standing behind a desk with one arm behind his back while others showed both legs and both arms. Prices charged by painters were not based on how many people were to be painted, but by how many limbs were to be painted. Arms and legs are ‘limbs,’ therefore painting them would cost the buyer more. Hence the expression, “Okay, but it’ll cost you an arm and a leg.”

As incredible as it sounds, men and women took baths only twice a year (May and October). Women kept their hair covered, while men shaved their heads (because of lice and bugs) and wore wigs. Wealthy men could afford good wigs made from wool. They couldn’t wash the wigs, so to clean them they would carve out a loaf of bread, put the wig in the shell, and bake it for 30 minutes. The heat would make the wig big and fluffy, hence the term ‘big wig’. Today we often use the term ‘here comes the Big Wig’ because someone appears to be or is powerful and wealthy.

In the late 1700’s, many houses consisted of a large room with only one chair. Commonly, a long wide board folded down from the wall, and was used for dining. The ‘head of the household’ always sat in the chair while everyone else ate sitting on the floor. Occasionally a guest, who was usually a man, would be invited to sit in this chair during a meal. To sit in the chair meant you were important and in charge. They called the one sitting in the chair the ‘chair man.’ Today in business, we use the expression or title ‘Chairman’ or ‘Chairman of the Board.’

Common entertainment included playing. However, there was a tax levied when purchasing playing cards but only applicable to the ‘Ace of Spades.’ To avoid paying the tax, people would purchase 51 cards instead. Yet, since most games require 52 cards, these people were thought to be stupid or dumb because they weren’t ‘playing with a full deck.’

Early politicians required feedback from the public to determine what the people considered important. Since there were no telephones, TV’s or radios, the politicians sent their assistants to local taverns, pubs, and bars. They were told to ‘go sip some Ale and listen to people’s conversations and political concerns. Many assistants were dispatched at different times. ‘You go sip here’ and ‘You go sip there.’ The two words ‘go sip’ were eventually combined when referring to the local opinion and, thus we have the term ‘gossip.’

At local taverns, pubs, and bars, people drank from pint and quart-sized containers. A bar maid’s job was to keep an eye on the customers and keep the drinks coming. She had to pay close attention and remember who was drinking in ‘pints’ and who was drinking in ‘quarts,’ hence the phrase ‘minding your ‘P’s and Q’s’.

In the heyday of sailing ships, all war ships and many freighters carried iron cannons. Those cannons fired round iron cannon balls. It was necessary to keep a good supply near the cannon. However, how to prevent them from rolling about the deck? The best storage method devised was a square-based pyramid with one ball on top, resting on four resting on nine, which rested on sixteen. Thus, a supply of 30 cannon balls could be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon. There was only one problem….how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding or rolling from under the others. The solution was a metal plate called a ‘Monkey’ with 16 round indentations. However, if this plate were made of iron, the iron balls would quickly rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make ‘Brass Monkeys.’ Few landlubbers realize that brass contracts much more and much faster than iron when chilled. Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs would come right off the monkey; Thus, it was quite literally, ‘Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.’

(ed. – Thank you to our friend Dick Inwood who sent this missive through to us this past week. Always appreciated Dick!)

Chris George provides reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

The art of listening

Listening is not the same as hearing. It is comprehending what is being said to you, and what is being communicated, and internalizing what is said so that you might provide thoughtful comment.

There is an art to listening and many people do not do it well as they are too busy trying to figure out what to say next, rather than fully understanding the other person’s comments.

Here are 6 great pointers on how to become a better listener.

  • Take the time to converse… permit yourself to “be lost” in a conversation
  • Look into the eyes, give your undivided attention (put away that cell phone)
  • Think to yourself: I will listen to understand, not to respond
  • Watch for any non-verbal communications signs
  • Ask questions to clarify anything not understood; and ask open end questions to obtain more details of what is being discussed
  • Be patient; do not interrupt but allow the speaker finish her thoughts

The best conversationalists are great listeners (is this not true?!). So, let the other(s) speak and learn from them how you can thoughtfully contribute to the exchange. In making an impact with your communications, it is quality not quantity that will create a lasting impression.

Think about the pointers provided in this post to become a better listener. If you wish to improve your listening skills over the next month, take Psychology Today’s “Listening Skills Test” and mark down your score. Print off the pointers and consciously think about them in your work and social exchanges. Then retest yourself in a month’s time and measure your improvement.

Chris George provides reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Well-Turned Phrases

Regarding apathy, I have no opinion.

Remember you’re unique, just like everybody else.

Give me ambiguity or give me something else.

Indecision is the key to flexibility.

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

Every morning is the dawn of a new error.

If all is not lost, where is it?

Ignorance is no excuse. It’s the real thing.

I always wanted to be somebody, but I should have been more specific.

I plead contemporary insanity.

Committee: a body that keeps minutes and wastes hours.

Yawn: an honest opinion openly expressed.

Education is what you have left after you’ve lost all your notes.

Procrastinate now.

Deja Moo: The feeling that you’ve heard this bull before.

Any philosophy that can fit into a nutshell belongs there.

No matter where you go, there you are.

Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.

Meandering to a different drummer.

Hermits unite!

Dyslexics Untie!

Eschew obfuscation.

Egotist: someone who is usually me-deep in conversation.

A PBS mind in an MTV world.

Ambivalent? Well, yes and no.

Entrophy isn’t what it used to be.

She had a body like a burlap bag full of bobcats.

Compost happens.

Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.

That was Zen. This is Tao.

 

Chris George, providing reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Our Redundant Redundancies

Have you notice we repeatedly use common figures of speech that are obvious redundancies?  Here are a few we’ve recorded at work in the last few weeks.

  • an added bonus
  • all inclusive
  • basic fundamentals
  • a brief moment
  • it’s boiling hot
  • let’s circle around
  • classic tradition
  • close proximity
  • duplicate copy
  • end result
  • false illusion
  • they’re immortalized forever
  • live audience
  • mental thought
  • my personal opinion
  • new discovery
  • original founder
  • it’s a temporary reprieve
  • true fact
  • unique, one-in-a-lifetime opportunity

Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

“THE Q&A” for our digital age

If there was one question and answer that sums up just how strange our world is in our day and digital age, it is the following:

Q: If someone from the 1950s

suddenly appeared today,

what would be the most

difficult thing to explain to

them about life today?

.

A: I possess a device

in my pocket that is capable

of accessing the entirety of

information known to man.

I use it to look at pictures

of cats and get in arguments

with strangers.

.

This Q&A originally was found on Reddit (apparently).

 

Chris George, providing reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Answering That Question about What You Do

“So what is it that you do?”

How often do you get asked that question? Do you have a rehearsed answer that gets people attention? Or do you find yourself struggling each time to find the right expressions to explain what “you do”?

When someone asks what your organization does, do you have a concise explanation? What of your colleagues? Would their description of what your organization does be similar?

The best thing an individual or organization can do for themselves is to think through and develop a script to answer the most basic of human exchanges; particularly the obvious questions about one’s identity and purpose. Here’s our suggestion: take the time and craft an “elevator chat” script.

The elevator chat will serve you (and your colleagues) as a concise description of who you are, what you do and why it matters. It can be developed to sound informal; however, a good script will be precise and capture the essence and significance of your work. Because you take the time to refine the key message(s), this script will be clear and accurate.

An effective elevator chat will be intriguing and leave your audience curious and wanting to learn more of what you do.

In order to help you craft a sound and engaging elevator chat, here are four questions to prompt your creative process and hone your core message(s).

  • 1. Answer the question “Why do I care?” Why should someone care and take notice of what you do? Talk about the significance of your work and/or organization – rather than its structure and your duties. In this way, you may establish an emotional connection between you and the person standing before you..
  • 2. Answer the question “What sets you apart?” You should highlight what makes you unique, distinctive – what sets you apart. It may be that you are the first or only one to be doing your work in the area – or perhaps you approach your work in a certain manner from others.
  • 3. Answer the basics. Include relevant details of the what? where? how? when? In order to showcase the explanation of the why? All details should accentuate the why? – the significance of your work.
  • 4. Anticipate the “So what?” question. Your chat should have a strong closing that provides the audience with a way to learn more, become involved, enter into a longer conversation. If you have made an emotional connection in the 30 – 40 seconds of your chat, there is a perfect opportunity to engage your enquirer in another level of discussion.

Have a business card to hand out; a website URL to share; a promise to follow-up in the days ahead. Be sure to follow-up with your enquirer. Take a few minutes each day to write thank you and follow-up notes.

So, the next time someone asks, “What is it that you do?” – there will be no grimacing, no fishing for the right phrase. Each elevator chat is an opportunity to share what is significant and, perhaps, to make a new connection.

(ed. – This is a repost, picked as one of our favourite three posts of 2011, taken from the earlier posts on the By George Journal.  The original post is here.)

Chris George, providing reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Def’n on the origins of popular sayings

HOT OFF THE PRESS
As the paper goes through the rotary printing press friction causes it to heat up. Therefore, if you grab the paper right off the press it is hot. The expression means to get immediate information.

A SHOT OF WHISKEY
In the old west a .45 cartridge for a six-gun cost 12 cents, so did a glass of whiskey. If a cowhand was low on cash he would often give the bartender a cartridge in exchange for a drink. This became known as a “shot” of whiskey.

THE WHOLE NINE YARDS
American fighter planes in WW2 had machine guns that were fed by a belt of cartridges. The average plane held belts that were 27 feet (9 yards) long. If the pilot used up all his ammo he was said to have given it the whole nine yards.

BUYING THE FARM
This saying is synonymous with dying. During WW1 soldiers were given life insurance policies worth $5,000. This was about the price of an average farm so if you died you “bought the farm” for your survivors.

PASSING THE BUCK/THE BUCK STOPS HERE
Most men in the early west carried a jack knife made by the Buck knife company. When playing poker it as common to place one of these Buck knives in front of the dealer so that everyone knew who he was. When it was time for a new dealer the deck of cards and the knife were given to the new dealer. If this person didn’t want to deal he would “pass the buck” to the next player. If that player accepted then “the buck stopped there”.

CURFEW
The word “curfew” comes from the French phrase “couvre-feu”, which means “cover the fire”. It was used to describe the time of blowing out all lamps and candles. In the early American colonies homes had no real fireplaces so a fire was built in the center of the room. In order to make sure a fire did not get out of control during the night it was required that, by an agreed upon time, all fires would be covered with a clay pot called-a “curfew”.

IRON CLAD CONTRACT
This saying came about from the ironclad ships of the Civil War. It meant something so strong it could not be broken.

And from the days of steamship travel on the mighty Mississippi River…

RIFF RAFF
The Mississippi River was the main way of traveling from north to south. Riverboats carried passengers and freight but they were expensive so most people used rafts. Everything had the right of way over rafts which were considered cheap. The steering oar on the rafts was called a “riff” and this transposed into riff-raff, meaning low class.

SHOWBOAT
These vessels were floating theaters built on a barge that was pushed by a steamboat. These barges played in small towns along the Mississippi River . Unlike the boat shown in the movie “Showboat” these did not have an engine. They were gaudy and attention grabbing which is why we say someone who is being the life of the party is “showboating”.

BARGE IN
Heavy freight was moved along the Mississippi in large barges pushed by steamboats. These were hard to control and would sometimes swing into piers or other boats. People would say they “barged in”.

HOGWASH
Steamboats carried both people and animals. Since pigs smelled so bad they would be washed before being put on board. The mud and other filth that was washed off was considered useless “hog wash”.

OVER A BARREL
In the days before CPR a drowning victim would be placed face down over a barrel and the barrel would be rolled back and forth in an effort to empty the lungs of water. It was rarely effective. If you are over a barrel you are in deep trouble.

(ed. – Our thanks again goes out to friend Dick Inwood who is a constant source of wonderment.)

Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Freedom of the Press

South of the Canadian border there is a raging war over the legitimacy of media organizations. There is a growing disrespect and a new disregard for traditional news sources – and it is being fueled by politicians, corporations, and news media itself.  Our mainstream media is assaulted on all fronts for its bias, uneven and “yellow” journalism. The public is increasingly doubtful that news organs are providing the facts of a matter. The end result of this assault is a growing cynicism and rejection of traditional media.

Today, the popular and overused phrase for any news item that may not suit the reader/viewer is to coin it “fake news.” Many will differentiate between facts and alternative facts and this is based on which set of facts may best fit a person’s own bias. There are no “bald truths” that are recognized universally – or so it seems.

There are no recognized, universal truths and no recognized conveyors of truth. We find in many cases, with the proliferation of Internet news sites and blogs and social media platforms, mainstream media and its unbiased news reporting is being replaced by opinionated editorializing of news events. Remarkably, there are generations of younger people who receive their news on select social media and from sources that reflect their own world-view.

This is not only occurring in the United States. The erosion of credible (critical/non bias) news sources is also happening in our country. This is a serious matter.

One of the founding fathers of the United States, John Adams, made a sage observation about the necessity of a nation’s media, “The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom.” This week, remarkably, American media has felt it necessary to take the unprecedented step to have to explain this fundamental idea. In hundreds of editorials across the country yesterday, the mainstream news media lashed out at President Donald Trump and his enduring rant against the U.S. fourth estate.

CNN has compiled the over 350 news organizations that participated in this campaign for the minds of the public.

What is at stake is the credibility and authority of a free (non-state) media. The New York Times provided an accurate assessment of our current state of affairs:

“In 2018, some of the most damaging attacks are coming from government officials. Criticizing the news media — for underplaying or overplaying stories, for getting something wrong — is entirely right. News reporters and editors are human, and make mistakes. Correcting them is core to our job. But insisting that truths you don’t like are “fake news” is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy. And calling journalists the “enemy of the people” is dangerous, period.”

In editorial after editorial, American news have tried to bring some perspective to this issue:

  • A person who blasts reliable news sources as fake when they prove him wrong on an issue, or when it reveals his self-contradictions or his ignorance, or whenever he simply doesn’t like it, is denying reality. – Idyllwood Town Crier (CA)
  • Journalists are trying to do a job. We’re not trying to tear down our nation. We’re trying to strengthen it. For we believe in the foundational premise behind the First Amendment – that our nation is stronger if its people are informed. – Mercury News and East Bay Times (CA)
  • Americans may not like the news they see or hear buy they should not hold that against those who report it. In short, don’t shoot the messenger. – The Lakeville Journal and the Millertown News (NY)
  • We take pride in our work and our daily mission to bring you the latest news in an accurate and fair manner, but we also take pride in the community we call home. – Ocala Star-Banner (FL)
  • America’s press is not without its criticism. However, there is no other industry in the United States that opens itself for criticism so regularly and so transparently. – Houghton Lake Report (MI)

Last word on the American media dust up goes to the NY Post editorial “Hate the press all you want – we’ll keep reporting.” Post editors write:

It may be frustrating to argue that just because we print inconvenient truths doesn’t mean that we’re fake news, but being a journalist isn’t a popularity contest. All we can do is to keep reporting.

 

(So, consider what Canadian news rooms are confronting with the federal government’s continual filtration and rewriting of our news… or the new tactic by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who wants to control the actual items that are recorded for news. Canadians should be as weary and concerned… )

Chris George, providing reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? 613-983-0801 @CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Mind-Numbing (Friday afternoon) Quiz

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Here is By George’s TGIF-Friday-afternoon quiz to determine whether the work week has knocked your mind sideways. Let us know how you scored…

 

  1. Johnny’s mother had three children.  The first child was named April.  The second child was named May.  What was the third child’s name?

 

  1. There is a clerk at the butcher shop, he is five feet ten inches tall and he wears size 13 sneakers.  What does he weigh?

 

  1. Before Mt. Everest was discovered…what was the highest mountain in the world?

 

  1. How much dirt is there in a hole that measures two feet by three feet by four feet?

 

  1. What word in the English Language …is always spelled incorrectly?

 

  1. Billy was born on December 28th, yet his birthday is always in the summer.  How is this possible?

 

  1. In California, you cannot take a picture of a man with a wooden leg.  Why not?

 

  1. What was the U.S. President’s name in 1975?

 

  1. If you were running a race and you passed the person in 2nd place, what place would you be in now?

 

  1. Which is correct to say:  “The yolk of the egg are white” or “The yolk of the egg is white”?

 

Here’s a bonus question…

 

  1. If a farmer has 5 haystacks in one field and 4 haystacks in the other field, how many haystacks would he have if he combined them all in another field?

 

Answers can be found in the By George comments section below.

 

(ed. – Complete the quiz – and don’t peek. Then tell us what you got – honestly. Anything under 5/10 and you deserve to leave the office immediately and start the weekend!)

 

Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

A life lesson at home plate

This is making the rounds – a great story with a remarkable life lesson.

 

In Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA convention.  While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend. One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment — “John Scolinos is here? Oh man, worth every penny of my airfare.”  Who the hell is John Scolinos, I wondered. No matter, I was just happy to be there.

In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate.  Seriously, I wondered, who in the hell is this guy?

After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.

Then, finally … “You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility. “No,” he continued, “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?” After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches,” more question than answer.
“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth’s time? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?”
Another long pause.
“Seventeen inches?” came a guess from another reluctant coach.
“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”
“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.
“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”
“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.
“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”
“Seventeen inches!”
“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?”
“Seventeen inches!”
“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls. “And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter.

“What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy. You can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches, or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.’”
Pause.
“Coaches …”
Pause.
” … what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? When our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him, do we widen home plate?”

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold. He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate!”
Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag.
“This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?” Silence. He replaced the flag with a Cross.
“And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate!”

I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curveballs and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …” With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside.  “… dark days ahead.”

Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach.

His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players — no matter how good they are — your own children, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.

 

(ed. – Thank you to Dick Inwood and Claude Bennett who forwarded this poignant story to us.)

 

Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.