9 December 2017
Time for another pop quiz.

Question: What is the collective noun for jellyfish? 

Answer at the bottom of this post.

Other than cooking our first home-cooked dinner since being in the USA, I’ve sat on my arse today. Or should I be writing ass? 

Somebody was curious enough during this tour to ask us if we spelt colour with a ‘u’. I don’t know why I am so against American spelling, but I am. I used to like a ‘z’ in my ‘...isations’ because it looked fancier than an ‘s’ in running writing. I changed to ‘s’ when I realise ‘z’ was the American way and became even more adamant about it as a teacher, particularly with ‘globalisation’ being one of the most common words in HSIE subjects and their syllabi. Yet, a principal at one of the schools at which I’ve taught insisted on using the ‘z’, even when he knew it went against all Australian education documentation. It irked me no end!

Numerous times Americans haven’t understood what we have said when I have thought we have been clear and to the point. That said, at other times, I have being incredibly conscious of my accent and the Australian terms and phrases I employ. Only, as soon as I say them, and realise the words are probably strange to my listener’s ears, I then forget what it was I said, the words being so natural to me. I do recall John exclaiming “Crikey!” a few times, sounding rather crass to my ears, but then I think that’s a more extreme example. At least Steve Irwin made it known in the US so won’t be completely unfamiliar to locals.

I know when my Dad is visiting us, he greets everyone with ‘G’day’, making me realise how country it is. I would have said I also say ‘G’day’ but living in Sydney must have knocked it out of me. When I first moved to Sydney I had that country accent, or so people said, but then again I have also been accused of having an English accent. I think that’s because when I’m anxious in a particular situation, I subconsciously fall back onto my speech training and speak properly, with well rounded vowels.

What we call bushfires in Australia, are called wildfires in USA. I think ‘bush’ understates the ravage of fires out of control so ‘wild’ is more appropriate. It is certainly an apt description of the fires occurring here in California at the moment. The news coverage is very similar to what we have at home, with reporters looking for the heroics, the sob stories and the best footage, even if it means interfering with firefighter efforts. One reporter was asked to clear out but she couldn’t because she was trapped between two fire fighting crews.

I remember when I was young, a family friend, Ann, was insistent that ‘man’ should be changed to ‘person’ in words such as ‘fireman’ and ‘chairman’. People scoffed at the concept, unable to see the harm in it, not able to look pass tradition (of the patriarchy). Although I still find the wrong words coming out of my mouth, such as girl instead of woman, I think it is important to change language that reinforces male dominance in our society.

I’ve recently started following Jane Gilmore on Facebook because I think her FixedIt work is important. In fact, I pay a small amount each month to support this work. This is the latest head line she’s fixed:


I am following with interest the sexual assault and sexual harassment claims in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein exposure. The difference between the words sexual assault and sexual harassment need to be understood, even though the line between them, to me, is a little blurred. I have hyperlinked to NSW legal definitions, attempted to be simplified for high school student level but far from clear. I like this USA Today article about the differences between sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape. I’m glad these cases have become openly discussed. I am concerned that some people, women included, believe names shouldn’t be named except through the courts. The problem is that sexual harassment is often part of a work culture and allowed to exist by the inaction of the people surrounding the offenders. In the banking industry, back when I was less than 65kg, young and skinny, I was the liaison person at a bank for the ATO auditors investigating it. Yes, I was cheap labour at 19 years old to be that person, but I was also encouraged to wear short skirts during this period. To be honest, I enjoyed the attention and I knew I didn't need to comply with the request for short skirts. But not all women want this type of attention and not all women feel like they have a choice in these type of situations. In my case, it was not a case of sexual harassment or assault but it is a mild demonstration of the treatment of women for their bodies in the workplace. If I had refused to wear the short skirts and there were consequences for that choice, than it would have been a different matter.

Many women are sexually harassed in the workplace and don’t feel like they can say no to bum slaps, sexually explicit ‘jokes’ being told, or repeated comments about how they look, for example. Women need to know they can say no, feel safe to say no and expect the request for the unwelcomed action to cease. It’s not because women can’t take a joke, it’s because it’s about power plays and ensuring women are lower down the power pole. Most of the time women have felt powerless to stop these unwelcomed conditions, the court system being such an inconceivable concept in these circumstances.

However, I am also concerned, that we are looking at some of these accusations with the hindsight of social progress. The behaviour of these men, the dicks of the workplace, was so culturally accepted just a couple of decades ago, it feels a little wrong to condemn the occasional transgression back then. It’s the repeat offenders, who were loudly and clearly told to cease their completely inappropriate behaviour, that I don’t mind having their names trashed in the press. Tracey Spicer and Kate McClymont have conducted an immense amount of research and didn’t name Don Burke without an incredible amount of evidence about his behaviour (smh article). The problem is when journalists with less integrity name and shame with flimsy evidence. But where should the line be drawn? Hard to call.


Pop Quiz Answer: A smack of jellyfish

The things you learn from ads for Ellen’s new game show! Ain’t language strange and wonderful.


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