Sunday, June 25, 2017

Pteromechanophobia just is a humorous, pseudo-technical term for fear of flying - from a satirical cartoonist

There are a lot of books about public speaking. I recently glanced at a 2017 one by Mary Fensholt Perera titled The Polished Presentation (the complete speaker’s guide). You can look inside it at Amazon, or preview it at Google Books. Part I is about Presentation Anxiety. Chapter 1 is titled You Are Not Alone. Her second paragraph begins by claiming:

“Anxiety about public speaking earned the scientific name “glossophobia” from the Greek terms for ‘tongue’ and ‘dread.’ “

I disagree. In a blog post on March 7, 2011 titled Taking the gloss off glossophobia, I concluded:

“Using the word glossophobia says something - that you don’t actually know what you are talking about. It’s really just pseudo-technical terminology.”

Then on page 5 she says:

“Today’s most common phobias show us how our body is designed to deal with our long history of dangerous environments, with the world our ancestors knew. Here are some fears that make virtually every list of the most common phobias:

Arachnophobia              Fear of spiders
Ophidiophobia               Fear of snakes
Murophobia                   Fear of rodents
Claustrophobia              Fear of small spaces
Nyctophobia                  Fear of the dark
Agoraphobia                  Fear of open spaces, of leaving a safe place
Pteromerhanophobia     Fear of flying (height and enclosed space)
Cynophobia                   Fear of dogs (wolves, predators)
Glossophobia                Fear of public speaking”

I’d previously seen fear of flying called either aerophobia or aviophobia, but not pteromerhanophobia. Aerophobia is in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, where it is defined as fear or strong dislike of flying. Aviophobia similarly is in the Merriam-Webster medical dictionary, and defined as fear of flying.

But where the heck did that silly word, pteromerhanophobia, come from? A Google search showed that it seemed to only have popped up on July 17, 1995 on a web site called The Phobia List where it was defined as fear of flying.

Ptero is Greek for wing or feather, and famously shows up in a name for a flying dinosaur, pterodactylus - “feather finger.” And phobia is Greek for fear.

Merhano doesn’t really sound Greek. It seems vaguely Spanish or Basque, and might mean something like “stubborn donkey” (but really does not). Was Merhano a name the marketing department at Mitsubishi Motors dreamed up for a new sport-utility-vehicle, but rejected as being too close to Nissan’s Murano? Not really. Actually Merhano just is a place five miles southeast of Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea.

A further broader Google search lead me to a page at a web site called ABC word which had another word - pteromechanophobia. Apparently the compiler of The Phobia List used some hand-printed notes, and the bottom from a lower-case c got lost and thus turned into an r. The clearly Greek mechano (mechanical) became the obscure merhano. 

Looking around on Google Books led me to the source for pteromechanophobia. It appeared in a 1971 book by satirical cartoonist Robert Chesley Osborn and Eve Wengler titled An Osborn Festival of Phobias. A page there says:

“His own phobias are pteromechanophobia...”

The Wikipedia page about Robert Chesley Osborn says that during World War II he and Captain Austin K. Doyle came up with a comic character for Navy training manuals - a pilot named Dilbert Groundloop, which eventually inspired Scott Adams to use the first name to title his famous comic strip.     

The Fear of Flying Monster was photoshopped from a little finger monster named Saurn from Archie McPhee - who I got at Re-Pop Gifts here in Boise, while the pterodacytl image came from Wikimedia Commons.   

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Just in time for summer - an outlaw country song from Steve Earle about hotshots and the legendary Ed Pulaski

It’s officially summer, which is the season for wildland fires out here in the intermountain west. During the Soda Fire, on August 15, 2015, I blogged about Fighting wildland fires: Hotshots, helicopters, and whatever else it takes. Hotshots are elite 20-man firefighting crews.

The Firebreak Line is a country song on the latest album from Steve Earle & the Dukes titled So You Wannabe an Outlaw. You can listen to it here on YouTube.

Further back on October 20, 2009 I blogged about A Heroic Forest Fire Story: Ed Pulaski and the Big Blow Up. In that post I quoted a 390 word version of the story from a 2007 publication on Leading in the Wildland Fire Service. But in the second verse of his song Steve Earle tells the Ed Pulaski story using just 80 words: 

“...Ed Pulaski is a friend of mine
When I’m cuttin’ out a firebreak line
He invented this thing like an axe I swing
And he never left a member of his crew behind
When the fire jumped across the line
Took ‘em down in an abandoned mine
Then he drew his gun, said he’d shoot the first one
That got it in his head to try and step outside
Got everybody out alive, Ed Pulaski is a friend of mine”

Steve’s version is almost five times shorter. It’s not totally correct, but some poetic license is allowed. There’s a live solo version of The Firebreak Line from Good Records in Dallas. In it Steve jokingly claims that, along with the axe-mattock Pulaski, there is another combination tool called a chingadera. But that really is a rude, indefinite Spanish noun which means “that f*cking thing.”    

The statue in Boise is in front of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A series of six Dilbert comics about a presentation disaster

From June 12th to June 17th there were six daily Dilbert comic strips about Asok preparing and then giving a presentation to his CEO. In the first three he received bad advice - including June 14th where his boss told a flipped over version of “imagine the audience naked.” Only Alice gave him good advice.

Links to them, and their caption texts are:

June 12, 2017
Asok: I’m nervous because I need to make a presentation to our CEO. Do you have any advice?
Wally: Don’t make eye contact with him. He hates that.
Asok: You have made things far worse!
Wally: He also flies into a rage whenever he hears the word “THE”.

June 13, 2017
Asok: Do you have any advice for my presentation to the CEO?
Dilbert: Sure. If you make one small mistake, your career will be finished.
Asok: You just made me nervous and thus doubled my risk of failure.
Dilbert: I’m not the one who brought it up.

June 14, 2017
Asok: Do you have any tips for my presentation to the CEO?
Boss: When you are presenting, Imagine you are naked and everyone is laughing at you.
Asok: Why?
Boss: It’s just something I read. I might have the details wrong.

June 15, 2017
Asok: Can you help me edit my slides for my CEO presentation? I have 75 slides and ten minutes to present.
Alice: Get rid of 74 of them.
Asok: I’ll ask someone else.

June 16, 2017
Asok: I have 75 slides to discuss in ten minutes. Save your questions to the end.
CEO: Sit down and never talk to me again as long as you live.
Dilbert: How’d the CEO presentation go?
Asok: It was 75 slides too long.

June 17, 2017
Boss: Our CEO said he liked your presentation.
Asok: He made me shut up and sit down before I got to my first slide.
Boss: He’s not a big fan of content.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Avoiding a downward spiral of shame after a speech went badly

The Harvard Business Review has an excellent web article by Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries titled Don’t Let Shame Become a Self-Destructive Spiral.

There also was another article by Christine Clapp in the March 2013 issue of Toastmaster magazine titled When bad speeches happen to good people (how to recover from a disappointing presentation) that you can read in a .pdf file at her Spoken With Authority web site. Her advice is to:

Put it in perspective
Analyze what went wrong - and right
Craft a plan
Get back on stage
Measure progress
Consider a coach
Believe in comebacks

Shame (and resilience from it) is a large subject. Social work researcher Brené Brown has studied, written, and spoken about it a lot. In 2013 on the Oprah Winfrey show she gave brief advice on 3 Things you can do to stop a shame spiral. You can also watch her 21-minute TED talk on Listening to Shame, or listen to a long podcast of an episode  from On Being about The Courage to Be Vulnerable.

The spiral-staircase image came from Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

How is a car GPS like a razor?

How is a GPS like a razor? Both can be sold using a razor and blades business model. Blades go dull and need to be replaced. Map data for navigation on a car GPS will need to be updated. About six years ago I finally bought a little TomTom XL335SE GPS with a 4-1/4” screen diagonal (as shown above with a Gillette Mach 3) for about $75. Map updates at their web site weren’t included, so after two years I paid $50 (on sale) for an annual package that regularly was $75.

Once I got it securely mounted in the car, the TomTom GPS was very useful both around Boise, and on road trips. But came with a suction cup mount for the windshield that has a ring which snaps into the back, which it often didn’t stay there (perhaps due to dust). It also came with a black plastic disk that mounted on the dash via two-sided foam tape. That was a little better, but the GPS still fell off the dash unpredictably.

I looked over on eBay and found another GPS mount which fit into the cup holder to the left of the instrument cluster on the dash of my Honda Fit. That worked much better. I could pick up the GPS and mount, key in the destination, and then drop it into the cup holder. An address is entered going from general to specific - state, then city, then street name, and finally the number.

Around town I prefer side streets to the Interstate (I-84), and the I-184 spur to downtown (locally known as The Connector). But the GPS usually tried to send me via the Interstate. After I ignored it three or so times, it finally let me go the way I prefer. My TomTom GPS has been very useful for long trips. It showed me the exact lanes to take at busy unfamiliar interchanges, like on I-15 near the Salt Lake City airport.  

After two more years I updated again. Last month I got a single map update for $25. But, when I tried to download it, they warned me that my now clearly obsolete GPS just  didn’t have enough memory to hold the whole U.S. from their latest map. So I only fit in the western half. It was time to look for a replacement.

This time I went looking for a GPS with a larger screen (and more memory), and with lifetime free map updates. I found a $100 refurbished Garmin Nuvi 67LM with a 6” screen at Amazon. The GPS is very nice, but their suction cup mount was even worse than on the TomTom - even with the black plastic disk that mounted on the dash. I found a web article on Replacing the Garmin Nuvi suction cup mount that recommended other brands of mounts.

I got another cup holder mount to try. It didn’t work because the Garmin was too wide to fit down in the space between the door and dash. So, I cut a block from 1” pine to fit on the dash, painted it black, attached the suction cup mount via four sheet-metal screws, and used two-sided foam tape to hold it on the dash to the right of the speedometer. The power cord from the GPS dropped two feet straight down to the power (cigarette lighter) socket on the center console.      

When I turned on the Garmin it immediately required me to Agree with the following legal disclaimer:

Do not attempt to enter route information or adjust this device while driving. Failure to pay full attention to the operation of your vehicle could result in death, serious injury, or property damage. You assume total responsibility and risk for using this device. NOTICE: Some jurisdictions regulate or prohibit use othis device. It is your responsibility to know and comply with applicable laws and rights to privacy in jurisdictions where you plan to use this device. 

 On my new Garmin GPS an address is entered going from specific to general - first the number, then street name, then city, then state. Usually it guesses the city. I really like that it warns me a half-mile before each school zone (speed limit 20 mph when yellow caution lights are flashing). The first menu shows Where to? and View Map as the primary options. Under Where to? the next menu Options are Go Home, Address, Restaurants, Gas Stations, Foursquare, and Add Shortcut. But when I looked for restaurants near home, I found several out-of-date listings.  

Friday, June 16, 2017

What happened in history on June 16th?

Yesterday I looked on Easy-Speak and found to my horror that we didn’t have a Toastmaster for today’s meeting of the Saint Al’s Toastmasters club in Boise. So, I volunteered and looked up ideas for themes, mostly at Wikipedia, and via Google.

There is more than one holiday for every darn day of the year. If you were listening to morning-drive-time-radio today, then you might have heard that it is National Fudge Day, or National Flip-Flop Day, or (at NPR) even Bloomsday. Any James Joyce fans out there?

But, as Toastmasters, we are all about public speaking. Thus we first celebrate that it is the 159th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s House Divided Speech.

The House Divided Speech

“Political newcomer Abraham Lincoln, beginning his campaign for the Illinois US senate seat, addressed the Republican state convention at Springfield Illinois and made a controversial speech that has become known as the House Divided speech. Attacking the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, Lincoln said:

‘A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other!’ ”

That description I just quoted from came right out of the 2016 edition of Chase’s Calendar of Events, which I blogged about on June 9th in a post titled June is Effective Communications Month, but somehow I didn’t get the message. It is an annual, 1-1/2’ thick, 8-1/2” by 11” $80 paperback reference book. This weighty tome is a conversation piece for victims of insomnia. But the reference desk at your friendly local public library probably has a copy. If you call them up, you might get a much better idea for a Toastmasters club meeting theme than from doing a quick Google search.   

Of course, you also could got to Wikipedia and look up their page for June 16th. You will find lists of Events, Births, Deaths, and Holiday and observances. Much is boring stuff, like in 1903 the Ford Motor Company was incorporated, and in 1911 IBM was founded as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company. Birthdays include economist Adam Smith in 1723, Geronimo in 1829, and John Tukey in 1915. Tukey mashed up binary and digit into the trendy word bit.

National Fudge Day

The authoritative Oxford English Dictionary (OED) says as a verb fudge goes back to 1674, and it means to fit together or adjust in a clumsy, makeshift, or dishonest manner. As a noun it goes back to 1766 and means contemptible nonsense, a made-up story, a deceit, etc.

Fudge is a Victorian confection dating from 1889, described by a student at Vassar College. The Vassar fudge recipe became quite popular. Word spread to other women’s liberal art colleges in the Seven Sisters, like Wellesley and Smith.

Fudge is made by mixing sugar, butter, and milk, followed by heating it to the soft-ball stage at 240 F, and then beating the mixture while it cools so that it acquires a smooth, creamy consistency. Chocolate, nuts, and other flavors are sometimes added, either inside or on top. It is often bought from gift shops in tourist areas.

OED says another early 20th century meaning for fudge (as a noun) is a blank patch on a newspaper page - for example, the Daily Mail. It was set aside so especially late breaking news, like race results, can be inserted via a second press run - just for that outer page.

National Flip-Flop Day

Flip-flops are a type of inexpensive, waterproof two-piece sandal for casual wear. They consist of a flat sole (often foam) held loosely onto the foot by a Y-shaped strap that passes between the first and second toes and around both sides of the foot.

This style of footwear has been worn by the people of many cultures throughout the world, originating as early as the ancient Egyptians around 1500 BC.  The modern flip-flop descends from the Japanese zori, which became popular in the US following World War II - when returning soldiers brought them back.

Flip-flop has been used in both in American and British English since the 1970s. It is an onomatopoeia of the sound made by the sandals when walking in them. In Austria they are called Schlapfen, and in Ghana the are called Charlie Wote. They also are somewhat xenophobically called Japonki in Poland, and Vietnamki in Russia. Flip-flop also refers to changing your opinion, as politicians commonly do. 


Bloomsday is named after Leopold Bloom, the central character in Jame Joyce’s 265,000 word long stream of consciousness novel, Ulysses. It takes place in Dublin on June 16, 1904. Why was that date chosen? Well, Joyce met his muse, Nora Barnacle, on June 10, 1904 in Dublin. Reportedly they had their first romantic liaison on June 16th. But they didn’t get married until 1931. That novel was published in Paris on February 2, 1922.

Throughout the 1920s, the U.S. Post Office burned copies of the novel as obscene. In 1933 Random House arranged to import the French edition and have a copy seized by U.S. Customs. The publisher contested the seizure in a lawsuit, affirmed in 1934 on appeal, so the U.S. became the first English-speaking country where the book was freely available.

Images of Abraham Lincoln, fudge, and Leopold Bloom all came from Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Wonderful storytelling - a prop demonstration early in the movie Deepwater Horizon

I just borrowed the DVD of Deepwater Horizon from my friendly local public library and watched last year’s big-budget Hollywood biopic disaster (and even IMAX) movie. What impressed me most was the brief prop demonstration shown above in a one-minute YouTube video. At the breakfast table Mike Williams little daughter Sydney jams a brass gizmo into the bottom of a full Coke can, and then squirts honey into the 'straw' on top. (NPR took note of that demo in their movie review).

If you were wondering how people possibly could drill a well into a pressurized gas and oil deposit, they just showed you the answer to your question - it’s a column of ‘mud.’ You didn’t have to go to Wikipedia and look up the page for Drilling fluid, and read the section under Control formation pressures. And then you saw the “well” go out of control and blow out.    

That’s effective storytelling - show rather than just tell. It reminded me of how another complicated story instead was told poorly - David Lynch’s 1984 science fiction epic Dune. It was based on Frank Herbert’s long 1965 novel about a revolt on the desert planet of Arrakis. A 2011 article at The MARY SUE showed both pages from The Glossary that came with Dune... The Movie. As we walked into the theater, they handed it to us. Here are two examples from that glossary:

MELANGE (May-lahnj): the “spice of spices’” the crop for which Arrakis is the unique source. The spice, noted for its geriatric qualities, is of great importance in empowering the Guild Navigators with the ability to “fold space,” thus uniting the Universe under the Emperor.

SANDWORM (known as Shai-Hulud): Sandworm of Arrakis. Sandworms grow to enormous length. Some are 1500 feet long and 125 feet high.; they live to great age, unless drowned in water, which is poisonous to them. 

But If you hadn’t previously read the novel, you still were really lost for the next two hours and seventeen minutes. Too much about that strange world was left untold or unsaid.

Watch a teaser from Deepwater Horizon that cuts between the tabletop demo and the following disaster.   

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sometimes a quotation just gets lost in translation

At the Decker Communications blog on April 27, 2017 there was a post by Ben Decker about feedback titled Iron Sharpens Iron. The King James Bible version of Verse 17 from Chapter 27 in the Book of Proverbs says:

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”

This verse typically is interpreted as being positive. For example, a web page at Got titled What does it mean that iron sharpens iron? says:

“There is mutual benefit in the rubbing of two iron blades together; the edges become sharper, making the knives more efficient in their task to cut and slice.”  

Our common experience is that to sharpen an edge you use a tool like a file or a whetstone to remove material. We might picture that one of those ‘blades’ was a steel file used to hand sharpen the edge of a tool such as a Vermont farmer’s scythe, as is shown above in an image from 1937. The Wikipedia article on scythes says they first appeared in about 500 B.C. Scythes might not have been around when the Book of Proverbs was written, but other edged tools like knives or swords were.

That Got Questions page refers to a 1995 book by Howard and William Hendricks titled As Iron Sharpens Iron - building character in a mentoring relationship. On page 18 it explains:

“The Bible puts it this way: ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.’ (Proverbs 27:17). Have you been sharpened against the whetstone of another man’s wisdom and character.”

I found a May 21, 2016 blog post by Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition titled What If “Iron Sharpening Iron” in the Book of Proverbs is actually Something to Avoid? He referred to a magazine article by Ronald L. Giese, Jr. titled “Iron Sharpens Iron” as a Negative Image: Challenging the Common Interpretation of Proverbs 27:17 that appeared in the Journal of Biblical Literature, Spring 2016, pages 61 to 76 (Vol. 135, No. 1). Dr. Giese concluded:

“The meaning of the verse is therefore along these lines: Just as a hard iron hammer pounds soft iron into something sharp, ready for battle, in the same way a man causes his neighbor to go on the attack (i.e., have a ‘sharp face’).”
If we assume that the Bible is referring to wrought iron, I agree with Dr. Giese that the typical positive interpretation is wrong. He notes that there weren’t iron files back then, so the rubbing interpretation is not valid. But there is one more important detail to complete the meaning for that verse.

Wrought iron doesn’t behave like steel. Steel contains enough carbon that it can be heat-treated to produce hard iron carbide particles. Wrought iron is low carbon iron (plus slag particles), without enough carbon to harden it like steel.

The only way to strengthen (or harden) wrought iron is by work hardening. That means permanently deforming it at room temperature, typically by hammering on the edge supported by an anvil (a process called peening). The Wikipedia article on swords notes this is the same method previously used for bronze swords. You don’t remove material – you just change its shape, which increases its strength.

There is a section by Michael Bussell on wrought iron in the Construction Materials Reference Book, which I found at Google Books. Table 6.8 says that wrought iron has an ultimate tensile strength (UTS) of 53.1 ksi in the hot rolled condition and increases to 86.1 ksi in the cold drawn condition. Similarly, wire in the hot rolled condition has a UTS of 53.1 ksi, versus 92.1 ksi in the cold drawn condition.  

Wikipedia says softer European scythes still are peened. What “iron sharpens iron” really means is likely as shown above for peening a scythe blade, a 2014 image from Gilles San Martin. You also can watch the process in an eight-minute YouTube video by Botan Anderson titled Zen and the art of peening a scythe blade. 

Writing this post was interesting. I haven’t looked up information about the behavior of wrought iron for ~25 years and that was the only time in my consulting career. It was back when I worked in Columbus, Ohio. After the 1991 fire at Adelbert Hall, a civil engineer I worked with was reviewing documents regarding rebuilding that included measurements of the strength of wrought iron structural beams. He asked me to check if there were any ASTM standards, like those he was used to seeing for structural steels. I finally found a printed copy of the old ASTM standard on the top floor of the main library at Ohio State University. To locate it, I had to look in their old card catalog rather than the current computerized one.  

Sunday, June 11, 2017

What is the second-worst acronym ever?

Last night I was listening to BBC radio coverage about results from the snap election in the UK, where Conservatives did not secure a majority in Parliament. They were looking at a political deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland. The BBC spelled out the three letters D-U-P rather than pronouncing the acronym as a word that would sound like dupe - for which the Oxford Dictionary definitions are:

Verb - deceive; trick. Noun - a victim of deception.  

There is a web site for the Democratic Unionist Party at By the way, Wikipedia says DUP also is an acronym for Dances of Universal Peace and Daughters of Utah Pioneers.

On April 8, 2016 I blogged about What’s the worst acronym ever? It was ASSOL for the Antonin Scalia School of Law (at George Mason University) which thankfully was renamed to ASLS - the Antonin Scalia Law School.

The image was reworked from an 1895 Puck magazine cover of John Bull’s dilemma at the Library of Congress.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Women, public speaking, and fear

On June 8, 2017 at both the Public Speaking and Public Speaking Network groups on LinkedIn Charles Crawford posted under the title Public Speaking: Are Men and Women Different? with a link to his November 19, 2016 web article titled Women and Public Speaking.

In that article Mr. Crawford stated his view:

“….Fear, unease, uncertainty, nerves about public speaking affect men and women alike.”

Quantitatively that is absolute rubbish. Of course men and women are different! The fear monster (shown above) looms larger for women. More women than men fear public speaking, and also women fear public speaking more than men.

Just look at results from just one national survey I blogged about on March 23, 2014 in a post titled YouGov survey of British adults found they most commonly were very afraid of heights, snakes, public speaking, spiders, and being closed in a small space. YouGov found 27% of women and 13% of men were Very Afraid of public speaking. At the other end of the spectrum, another post on February 19, 2015 titled 2014 YouGov fear surveys show a fearlessness gap between men and women similarly showed that 26% of men but only 14% of women were Not Afraid at All.

There also was a YouGov survey of U. S. adults, which I blogged about on April 2, 2014 in a post titled YouGov survey of U.S. adults found they most commonly were afraid of snakes, heights, public speaking, spiders, and being closed in a small space. YouGov similarly found 24% of women and 16% of men were Very Afraid of public speaking. There was a similar fearlessness gap to Britain - 29% of men but only 16% of women were Not Afraid at all.

Women also fear public speaking more than men. In another post on November 10, 2015 titled YouGov survey done in 2014 found U.S. adults were less than A Little Afraid of public speaking, I showed how to calculate a Fear Score on a scale from 1 = Not afraid at all to 4 = Very afraid. For the U.S. survey the fear score was 2.70 for women and 2.36 for men. For the British survey the fear score was 2.79 for women and 2.33 for men.

There are three other well-known older U.S. surveys that found more women than men feared public speaking. The 2001 Gallup poll reported in an article titled Snakes top list of Americans’ fears found 44% of women and 37% of mean feared public speaking in front of an audience. On May 19, 2011 I blogged about  America’s Number One Fear: Public Speaking – that 1993 Bruskin-Goldring survey, which found 54% of women and 34% of men feared speaking before a group. On October 27, 2009 I blogged about The 14 Worst Human Fears in the 1977 Book of Lists: Where did this data really come from? In the 1973 Bruskin survey 46% of women and 36% of men feared speaking before a group.

How about the Fear of Public Speaking Statistics web page at Statistic Brain which claims 75% of women and 73% of men suffer from speech anxiety? Those are phony statistics, and there really was no survey from the National Institute of Mental Health. I blogged about it on July 15, 2012 in a post titled Another bogus statistic on the fear of public speaking.

There also are two U.S. studies of university students which used fear survey schedules to determine how much women and men feared public speaking. On October 13, 2012 I blogged about how In a 1992 study of U.S. university students, fear of public speaking ranked sixth for men and eighth for women. Klieger found that for speaking in public, on a scale from 0 to 4, women had an average fear of 2.04 versus men at 1.82. On October 10, 2012 I blogged about how In a 1965 study of university students, fear of public speaking ranked sixth for men and seventh for women. Geer found that for speaking before a group, on a scale from 1 to 7, women had an average fear of 2.87 versus men at 2.59.

For over decades psychologists have known that there are gender differences to fears. Why didn’t Mr. Crawford get the message?

But the fear monster really isn’t as big as you might imagine (and his body feathers have been Photoshopped). With training and experience he usually shrinks down to his actual size, shown above. Fluther is a little Finger Monster toy sold by Archie McPhee, as seen in a YouTube video. I got him at Re-Pop Gifts here in Boise.

Friday, June 9, 2017

June is Effective Communications Month, but somehow I didn’t get the message

A post on June 7th from DeFinis Communications (which appeared at AllTop Speaking under The Presentation Skills Blog) was titled June is Effective Communications Month!

An undated article by Denise Wakeman proclaimed:

“Did you know that June is Effective Communications Month? It’s a real holiday, listed in Chase’s Calendar of Events.”

Chase’s Calendar of Events is an annual, 1-1/2’ thick, 8-1/2” by 11” $80 paperback reference book published by Bernan Press. It's a conversation piece for victims of insomnia. The front cover describes it as follows:

“12,500 Entries. 196 countries. 366 Days. All in one book....The Ultimate Go-to Guide for Special Days, Weeks and Months. 4000 notable birthdays. 1,400 historical anniversaries. 650 national and international holidays. 160 religious holidays. And thousands of additional days of note from around the globe. The Authority Since 1957.”

I had blogged about Chase’s in an August 8, 2014 post titled Was yesterday really National Public Speaker Day? In that post I noted that it was useful if you were an emcee (like the Toastmaster at a club meeting) and had run out of ideas for a theme (or a topic to joke about).

I borrowed the 2016 edition of Chase’s from the Meridian Public Library. (The latest 2017 one doesn’t circulate). 

Who came up with Effective Communications Month? The entry for it in Chase’s says:

“EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATIONS MONTH, June 1-30. The most important cog in the wheel of interpersonal relationships is communication. Active listening, verbal language, paralanguage, body language and written communication skills are the essence of how humans relate to each other personally and professionally. This month is dedicated to learning how to communicate more effectively. For info: Sylvia Anderson, Springboard Training, PO Box 588, Olney, MD 20830-0588. Phone (301) 260-1538. E-mail: Web: www.”

Why didn’t I get the message? Way too much information! According to Chase’s, June also is:

Adopt-A-Shelter Cat Month
African-American Music Appreciation Month
Audiobook Appreciation Month
Cancer From the Sun Month
Caribbean-American Heritage Month
Cataract Awareness Month
Child Vision Awareness Month
Children’s Awareness Month
Dairy Alternatives Month
Entrepreneurs ‘Do It Yourself’ Marketing Month
Gay and Lesbian Pride Month
Great Outdoors Month
International Men’s Month
International Surf Music Month
June Dairy Month
June is Perennial Gardening Month
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month
Men’s Health Education and Awareness Month
Migraine and Headache Awareness Month
National Aphasia Awareness Month
National Bedroom Reading Month
National Candy Month
National Caribbean-American Heritage Month
National GLBT Book Month
National Iced Tea Month
National Rivers Month
National Safety Month
National Oceans Month
National Soul Food Month
National Zoo and Aquarium Month
Pharmacists Declare War on Alcoholism
PTSD Awareness Month
Rebuild Your Life Month
Skyscraper Month
Sports America Kids Month
Student Safety Month

That’s 35 months to celebrate just in June, if we count Caribbean-American Heritage Month just once. There are 11 National, 8 Awareness, 2 Appreciation, 2 International, 2 Music, and 2 Safety months.

An article at Idea Success Network claims Sylvia Anderson was responsible for getting the following eight months into Chase’s:

February: both National Time Management Month and Youth Leadership Month
March: International Ideas Month
May: Motorcycle Safety Month
June: Effective Communications Month
July: Women’s Motorcycle Month
August: Black Business Month
October: Positive Attitude Month

It also claimed a ninth, September: Self-Improvement Month, but that was not in the 2016 edition. Perhaps they forgot since September also is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Month.

The monkey was adapted from a no evil image at Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Which quote is fake, and which is real?

1] "I not only use all the brains I have, but all I can borrow." - Woodrow Wilson

2] “For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn.” - Ernest Hemingway

The first one, attributed to Woodrow Wilson, is real. A definitive source for it is the first footnote in a CIA web article by Mark E. Benbow titled All the Brains I can Borrow: Woodrow Wilson and Intelligence Gathering in Mexico, 1913-1915.

The second one, supposedly from Ernest Hemingway, is actually fake. Garson O’Toole discussed it in a 2013 web article at his Quote Investigator site, and it also is in his 2017 book titled Hemingway Didn’t Say That - the truth behind familiar quotations.
There are at least four other books that discuss the dubious nature of some quotations. In 1989 there was Paul F. Boller, Jr. and John George’s They Never Said It a book of fake quotes, misquotes, and misleading attributions. In 1992 there was Ralph Keyes’s “Nice guys finish seventh”: False phrases, spurious sayings, and familiar misquotations. In 2006 there was another Ralph Keyes book, The Quote Verifier; who said what, where, and when and also Elizabeth Knowles’s What They Didn’t Say a book of misquotations.

Quotes have a bad habit of changing wildly, like in the parlor game we call Telephone in the U.S., but that Wikipedia calls Chinese whispers where:

“one person whispers a message to the ear of the next person through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group.”

The description of Mr. Keye’s 1992 book at Amazon notes some mechanisms for change:

“Freud may never have said ‘Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,’ for example, but we certainly wish he had. Keyes calls this ‘the flypaper effect.’ Orphan quotes or comments by unknowns routinely gravitate to noted figures such as Churchill, Lincoln, or Twain. Other syndromes Keyes discusses include bumper stickering (condensing a long comment to make it more quotable), lip syncing (mouthing someone else's words as if they were your own), and retro-quoting (putting words in the mouths of famous dead people).”

I first used a slightly incorrect version of the Wilson quote in a June 14, 2008 blog post titled QUOTATIONS: “I use not only all the brains I have, but all I can borrow.”

The image of a shrug was adapted from one at Openclipart.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Should you use a quotation, or just let your own words fall out?

I just ran across an interesting article from May 31, 2017 at CounterPunch by Kim C. Domenico titled Add Meaning, Stir and Bake: A New Anarchist Recipe in which she said:

“....Beginning with my husband’s fiftieth  birthday, I realized if there was something I longed to hear spoken at a gathering or occasion, I should not undertake a search for the apt Rumi poem or the Native American chant.  Rather, I needed to take the truly radical path:  I should speak the words I wanted to hear!  Over the 18 years since then, this ceremonial speaking has become probably the most ‘anarchist’ thing I do, which is, to speak truly to occasions in a way that revives the eternal meanings and verities for me, trusting the words will strike at least some chords in the listeners.”

Her words reminded me of the Sara Bareilles song Brave, which says just to:

“Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave”

I blogged about that song on August 1, 2013 in a post titled Joy of letting the words fall out.

What do you think?

UPDATE: June 14, 2017

If you are tempted to quote the Sufi mystic Rumi, keep in mind that his poems might not mean what you think. Look up an article from April 16, 2014 by Mohammed Ghilan at Aljazeera on April 16, 2014 titled What was Rumi talking about?

The same caution applies to modern Sufi songwriting. Richard Thompson’s lovely song Dimming of the Day can be taken as a romantic duet, as in the 2010 version with Bonnie Raitt. But if you just look at the cover for his and his wife Linda’s 1975 album Pour Down Like Silver, you would think differently about what was meant.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Why don’t we spell the way we talk?


When she was a young schoolgirl, my mother got very frustrated about having to learn the spelling for her hometown. Cincinnati is located on the Ohio river. Why is there a double N? Why isn’t it Sinsinati? Why isn’t the Kentucky town across the river spelled Kuvingtun instead of Covington?

A generation later and upstream I was similarly upset by spelling Pittsburgh (double T, ending with a silent h). Even worse was the long state name of Pennsylvania. Again, why the double N? Why wasn’t that city spelled Pitsberg, and that state spelled Pensilvaineya?

I found a 16-minute TEDxRiodelaplata talk from 2015 by Karina Galperin in Buenos Aires, Argentina titled Should We Simplify Spelling? that discussed the same problem with spelling in the Spanish language. 

Why don’t we just write words the way we pronounce them?

Friday, June 2, 2017

WARNING: Shamazon and other phony phishing emails

Watch out! In the past few days I have received several totally fraudulent phishing emails pretending to come from shopping sites, like the following one that wound up in my spam folder:

Title: Your order 178-7975-78511 has been successfully canceled

Body: []

Today 1:28 PM

Your order has been successfully canceled. For your reference, here’s a summary of your order:

You just canceled order 178-7975-78511 placed on June 1, 2017.


1 “Intervenes”;  2002,  Deluxe Edition
    By: Stacy Armstrong

Sold by:  Amazon .com LLC

Thank you for visiting!

The email referred to an order I never made (and never canceled), for a nonexistent product. It was sent to the email address I use for this blog, which is NOT the address I use when ordering from Amazon. But the English is not as bad as is usual. 

Note that the address it actually came from is NOT that for Amazon.. At the bottom of the body is another link that claims to also go to Amazon, but actually leads to what Firefox labels as an attack site.

Another phony Amazon email came from the outrageous email address of Two other emails with the same body format claimed to have come from Alibaba Group and eBay.

DO NOT open or reply to any of these emails - just delete them.


June 4 - the latest Shamazon email came from

June 5 - Today's came from 

June 10 - Today there were two.
  One came from order-update 
  and the other from   

Thursday, June 1, 2017

What the heck is a covfefe?

Last night our President, Donald J. Trump, bizarrely tweeted:

“Despite the constant negative press covfefe.”

A New York Times article asked: What’s a ‘Covfefe’? Trump Tweet Unites a Bewildered Nation. Perhaps he just misspelled coverage or got confused spelling coffee.

The following ‘fake news’ explains it. A covfefe is a double-ended tool, or (or more desperately) a weapon. The classic tool is the double-bladed paddle (shown above) used with a kayak. The classic Trumpian weapon is a Drumpfschticker (double-ended fighting pike). Pikes were used successfully by armies in the pike square or the Scottish rectilinear schiltron.

But the Drumpfschticker instead is associated with the Selbstmordkampflinie (suicidal battle line), a desperate tactic necessitated by their awful family strategy of simultaneously antagonizing neighboring cities both to the east and west. Reportedly the Drumpfschticker inspired the double-ended lightsaber employed by the Star Wars character Darth Maul.

The paddle was adapted from an image at Wikimedia Commons.


June 12, 2017 Trump Tweets Would Be Archived under COVFEFE Act.

"On Monday, Rep. Mike Quigley introduced The Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement (COVFEFE) Act, which will update the law to include social media."

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Spouting Nonsense - Nobody ever died from public speaking

One of the sillier statements you may find is in a June 1, 2012 article from Dale Carnegie by Kristina Schneider titled Fear Not, Master Public Speaking with Confidence which claimed:

“....Nobody ever died from public speaking.”

Similar claims have appeared elsewhere in books, articles, and blog posts. In his 2011 book, No Sweat Public Speaking, Fred E. Miller said of small-town newspapers:

“Read a few of the death notices and you’ll find that people die from a variety of causes. I’ve yet to see where anyone died from giving a presentation!”

In the 2008 edition of the textbook iSpeak (public speaking for contemporary life)
Paul E. Nelson, Scott Titsworth, and Judy C. Pearson said:

“The authors of this book have over 90 years of combined teaching experience. We have heard thousands of classroom speeches. So far, not one student has died while speaking. Nor have we ever heard of one who did.”

On January 12, 2009 in an article at Ezine Articles titled Fear of Public Speaking - Is It Justified? Nancy Daniels said:

“To my knowledge, no one has died from public speaking.”

On April 15, 2017 in his Mindful Presenter blog Maurice DeCastro posted on Public Speaking Skills - 20 Tips to help you to manage your nerves more broadly claimed:

“To my knowledge no one has ever died from either speaking in public or worrying about speaking in public.”

Perhaps their knowledge is like a short rubber band, and it does not stretch very far.

Has anyone died from worrying about public speaking? Probably! In a magazine article titled Communication Apprehension: What Have We Learned in the Last Four Decades Professor James C. McCroskey told an anecdote about suicides by students at Pennsylvania State University back when he was teaching there. 14 were recorded, and all but one currently were enrolled in the required public speaking classes. Back on October 18, 2009 I blogged about that in a post titled Some college students really do fear public speaking more than death. 

Recently I was told instead that only three people had died from public speaking.   A Google search led me on Google Books to the 2011 book Network Marketing for Dummies by Zig Ziglar and John P. Hayes which indeed had said:

“As far as I have been able to discover, only three people have lost their lives in the process of public speaking. They are Arthur MacArthur, the father of General Douglas MacArthur, who died of a heart attack while on the dais addressing a reunion of his Civil War unit; Alben W, Barkley, former vice president of the United States, who died suddenly while making a speech; and a woman who was running for Justice of the Peace in a small New York town. Some estimates tell us that roughly 15 billion people have occupied the earth since Adam and Eve. That means the odds are five billion to one that you will survive your talk.” 

I found it very curious that all three of Mr. Ziglar’s examples were in the United States. So, I did some Google and Bing searches on phrases like “died while giving a speech,” “died while speaking,” “died after speaking,” and “Heart attack while speaking.”

Here are the results: I found 15 people in the U.S. (5 times more than Mr. Ziglar reported), and a total of 30 people from various countries (10 times more than Mr. Ziglar reported). When possible I have supplied the birth and death dates and other pertinent details.


Writer and orator Jose Carlos de Patrocinio (October 8, 1854 to January 29, 1905) died during a speech in honor of the aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont at the Teatro Lincio on Rio de Janeirio due to hemoptysis.  


Adelaide Hunter Hoodless was an educational reformer (February 27, 1857 to February 26, 1910). According to Wikipedia:

“Adelaide travelled by train to Toronto to speak at St. Margaret’s College on ‘Women and Industrial Life’. Ten minutes after she began speaking, her voice faltered. She was given some water. She took a sip, said 4 more words and collapsed on the floor. Adelaide Hunter Hoodless's death was registered as the result of a cerebral hemorrhage.”

Roy Wagar school board official in Montreal (? to 1962):

“Wagar died during his speech at Monkland High School's graduation ceremony just a year before Wagar High School opened its doors.”


Corinne Erhel, French politician (February 3, 1967 to May 5, 2017):

“Erhel died while she was giving a speech at a meeting in support of Emmanuel Macron for the 2017 French presidential election.”


Johann Theodor von Ravenstein, army officer (January 1, 1889 to March 26, 1962). According to notes on page 201 of Samuel W. Mitcham’s 2007 book, Rommel’s Desert War: The Life and Death of the Afrika Korps, after retirement:

“...he devoted himself to his many interests and hobbies, and was very active in the Lutheran Church. He dropped dead of a heart attack during a speech to his parish on March 26, 1962.” 


Moolayil Narayana Menon Vijayan, Indian orator and writer (June 8, 1930 to October 3, 2007):

“Vijayan suffered a massive heart attack and died during a recorded speech at Thrissur Press Club.”


Jerome Hynes, chief executive of the Wexford Festival Opera (September 30, 1959 to September 18, 2005):

“He was addressing staff, casts and crews in the foyer of the Theatre Royal in Wexford on Sunday night and was introducing incoming artistic director David Agler, when he collapsed suddenly. He died shortly afterwards.”


Inejiro Asanuma, socialist politician (December 27, 1898 to October 12, 1960):

“Asanuma was assassinated by 17-year-old, Otoya Yamaguchia, militant nationalist, during a televised political debate for the coming elections for the House of Representatives.   While Asanuma spoke from the lectern at Tokyo's Hibiya Hall, Yamaguchi rushed onstage and ran his yoroi-doshi  (a traditional samurai sword) through Asanuma's ribs on the left side, killing him.”


Carmen de Burgos, journalist, writer, and human rights activist (December 10, 1867 to October 9, 1932). According to Spanish Women’s Writing 1849 to 1996 (edited by Catherine Davis, 2000), page 121:

“It was during a public speech in favour of the Republic in 1932 that she collapsed with heart failure. Her dying words are reported to have been: ‘I die happily because I’m dying in the midst of a triumphant Republic. Long live the Republic! Gentlemen: shout with me, Viva la Republica!’ ”


Vahap Özaltay, first Turkish professional football player (1908 to June 10, 1965):

“Özaltay died of a heart attack while giving a speech at Altay Sport Club’s general congress in 1965.”


Ruth Rendell was the author of numerous murder mystery novels. In a 2013 Penguin article about an incident in the early 1950s she said:

“I had resigned from a job as a journalist on the Chigwell Times after I wrote a report of a local tennis club’s dinner without going along, thus missing the fact that the after-dinner speaker died in the middle of his speech!” 

William Friese-Greene, photographer and inventor (September 7, 1855 to May 5, 1921) got up to speak at a meeting of the cinema industry in London but soon became incoherent. He was helped to return to his seat, but shortly afterward slumped forward and died.

Sir Montague Maurice Burton, founder of a clothes shop chain (August 15, 1885 to September 21, 1952) died while speaking after a dinner in Leeds.

Raymond Arthur Pobgee, mayor of Peterborough from 2000 to 2002 (? to April 7, 2005)
reportedly collapsed and died from a heart attack during a Peterborough city council meeting regarding a financial mistake in the city’s plans for secondary schools. His last words were:

”It has been a long sad story.”

Chris Harman, socialist activist and journalist (November 8, 1942 to November 7, 2009) died:

“following a cardiac arrest while lecturing at the Socialist Days conference of the Center for Socialist Studies  (CSS) in Cairo, Egypt.”


In his 2004 book Staying Up, Up, Up in a Down, Down World, Zig Ziglar identified that woman who was running for Justice of the Peace in a small New York town as Barbara Helleen, who reportedly suffered a heart attack while speaking to the Women’s Club of Rosendale, New York.

William Barton Rogers, geologist, physicist, and first president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1862 - 1870 (December 4, 1804 to May 30, 1882):

“He died after collapsing during a speech at MIT's 1882 commencement exercises. His last words were ‘bituminous coal.‘ “

Aaron Macy Powell was a Quaker social reformer active in the Anti-Slavery Society (1832 to May 13, 1899) who died in Philadelphia at the Race Street Meetinghouse as described in the Personal Reminiscences of the Anti-slavery and Other Reforms and Reformers on page 211 ( at Google Books):

“Near the close of the meeting, during which there had been much expression of unity with the presence by courtesy, of Friends from the far West and England, he rose and said: ‘It has been very gratifying to me to observe in the portion of the morning session which I was privileged to attend, and again this afternoon, the tendency to a spirit of unification among Friends. We each have to live a life’ - He ceased speaking, and was observed to be falling forward. A friend facing him and near him, instantly supported him; and hands as kind as brothers’ hands could be, laid him upon the seat from which he had risen, and used every means for his restoration. A physician present in the meeting, pronounced further efforts unavailing, - the spirit had departed.”

Charles Brantley Aycock, governor of North Carolina 1901 - 1905 (November 1, 1859 to April 4, 1912):

“Aycock died of a heart attack while making a speech to the Alabama Education Association in Birmingham on April 4, 1912. The subject of Aycock's speech was 'Universal Education'. After he had talked for a few minutes, Aycock spoke the words: 'I have always talked about education -.' Here he stopped, threw up his hands, reeled backward, and fell dead.”

Arthur MacArthur Jr., army general (June 2, 1845 to September 5, 1912):

“On September 5, 1912, he went to Milwaukee, to address a reunion of his Civil War unit. While on the dais, he suffered a heart attack and died there.”

Timothy Lester Woodruff, Lieutenant Governor of New York 1897 - 1902 (August 4, 1848 to October 12, 1913): 

“In 1913, after an incredibly active political and business life in New York, Woodruff died suddenly after suffering a stroke while delivering a speech.”

A. R. Ponder, businessman (? to September 9, 1931). Ponder had resided in San Antonio, TX for the past 20 years. He collapsed and died while giving a speech at the opening of a new bank in Asherton, Texas.

Edward Everett Eslick, U.S. representative from Tennessee (April 19, 1872 to JUne 14, 1932) died at the Capitol while addressing the House of Representatives regarding a World War I bonus bill. 

Alben W. Barkley, U. S. vice president 1949 -1953 (November 24, 1877 to April 30, 1956):

“In an April 30, 1956, keynote address at the Washington and Lee Mock Convention, Barkley spoke of his willingness to sit with the other freshman senators in Congress, he ended with an allusion to Psalm 84:10, saying ‘I'm glad to sit on the back row, for I would rather be a servant in the House of the Lord than to sit in the seats of the mighty.’ He then collapsed onstage and died of a heart attack.”
You can listen at YouTube to a recording of the last words from His Last Speech.

Malcolm X, minister and activist (May 19, 1925 to February 21, 1965) was assassinated by three gunmen while beginning to speak in a rally at a ballroom in New York City.

John Jarvis Seabrook, African-American pastor and educator (April 12, 1899 to May 1, 1975). While speaking to the Austin, TX city council he collapsed, suffering a fatal heart attack.

Ezekiel Candler Gathings, U.S. Representative from Arkansas (November 10, 1903 to May 2, 1979):

“Gathings died in West Memphis on May 2, 1979, after suffering a heart attack while speaking to a local business group.”

Donald E. McCullough, Yuba City, California automobile dealer (1936 to April 13, 2005):

“He died while speaking at a Save Beale Air Force Base fundraiser.”

 Allison ‘Tootie’ Montana, chief of New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians (December 16, 1922 to June 27, 2005):

“Tootie was making a speech at the New Orleans City Council Chamber against the NOPD abuse of the Mardi Gras Indians. In the middle of his speech Tootie suffered from a heart attack that took his life. ”  

Gene Edward Franchini, former chief justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court (May 19, 1935 to November 4, 2009). According to his obituary in the ABA Journal, he collapsed and died while giving an annual speech on ethics and the role of a judge to an audience of about 100 - mostly first-year students at the University of New Mexico School of Law in Albuquerque.

Although death while speaking in public is rare, it certainly is not unheard of. My list likely is an underestimate, since countries such as China, Indonesia, and Russia are missing.