It is with great pleasure that I announce the unveiling of The Food Label Movement, which you can check out at:
With my nutritionist friend, I have co-founded this organization to appeal to the Canadian government to improve food labelling regulations. I especially feel passionate about this project because it combines my two loves: health and rhetoric.
The rhetoric of food packages is truly something to marvel at. Food manufacturers are able to neglect to say an astonishing amount of important information (for example, not stating whether a product contains genetically modified ingredients), while emphasizing other parts of the food which are negligible (for example, using the phrase "made with whole grains!" when the product only contains 2% whole grains).
As a writer, editor, and communications specialist, I know that there is a lot of value in being able to strategically promote a product (case in point: I'm doing it right now with trying to promote The Food Label Movement). But I think that one of the most important parts about rhetoric is to try to be as transparent as possible with it (case in point: I just stated what I am doing in the previous sentence).
Increasing transparency would be beneficial to everyone. It would allow the consumer to understand exactly what they are eating, and it would allow the food manufacturer to know exactly what the consumer wants. I believe that it would improve health across the entire country because consumers would be able to make educated decisions about what they eat, which in turn would lead to people being more productive economically (because they wouldn't have to worry as much about their health once it was improved, and they would also find themselves more energetic once their health was improved) and the country being in a better situation financially because there wouldn't be as much money spent on health care (how's that for a wordy sentence? And yes. I like brackets).
Food labels - which include the front of the food package, the nutrition facts table, and the ingredient list - have so much potential to inform consumers. Join The Food Label Movement to show your support for the cause: sign our petition, become a sponsor, donate to the movement, and march with us in Winnipeg in the summer of 2011. Food products need a rhetoric makeover.
I have written before about how, as a child, I never knew what the real words to the Lord's Prayer were. I just mumbled it along with everyone else and strung sounds together without knowing what the words were. It was years later that I discovered that the word "howl" does not enter into the Lord's Prayer at any point (but the word "hallowed" certainly does).
The mother dear recently went on a trip and was able to spend some time with the father dear (he's living in Cambodia, so we don't get to see him too often). When she returned, she brought back a beautiful cameo (my favourite jewelry besides pearls!) that she and the father dear had picked out for me. I e-mailed the father dear to say thank you and when he responded with an e-mail that said, "You're welcome", it occurred to me that even that phrase is often mumbled (which it can't be via e-mail, of course. The father dear knows how to enunciate his words!).
We really need to learn how to emphasize our words. Most people pronounce the phrase "your welcome" rather than "you're", which is very interesting because it completely changes the meaning of the phrase. "Your" implies that the person is welcoming themselves. "You're" implies that the person being thanked was happy to be of service.
Besides the fact that it's kind of sad that we often don't express our happiness at having done something for another person (because if we did express ourselves appropriately, I'm sure that we would be able to enunciate our words better as we respond beamingly to a person's heartfelt "thank you"), it is also unfortunate that we don't tend to enunciate to assure the other person that we are saying "you're welcome" instead of "your". Does that negatively affect our outlook on life because it suggests that we aren't as giving? It's hard to say. But it is something to think about the next time someone says thank you: let them know that you really wanted to do it by enunciating the "you're" in "you're welcome".
Speaking of all of this, until recently when I was conducting a spell check, I had mistakenly thought that the word "enunciate" was spelled with an "a". Even the word "enunciate" is rarely enunciated correctly! Despairing indeed.
First impressions are essential in our relationships with others. After all, we are social creatures that live in a society in which the people that you know can either help you get "to the top" or crush you, depending on their impression of you. Because of this, much in our lives depends on the positive relationships we have with others.
The following is a quote from page 108 of Miller and Perlman's Intimate Relationships, Fifth Edition textbook:
We start judging people from the moment we meet them. And by "moment", we mean the first twenty-fifth of a second. That's all it takes - only 39 milliseconds - for us to determine whether a stranger's face looks angry (Bar et al., 2006). After more patient deliberation lasting one-tenth of a second, we have formed judgments of a stranger's attractiveness, likeability, and trustworthiness that are the same as those we hold after a minute's careful inspection of the person's face (Willis & Todorov, 2006). Then, after watching the stranger chat with someone of the other sex for only 5 seconds, we've already decided how extroverted, conscientious, and intelligent he or she is (Carney et al., 2007). We jump to conclusions very, very quickly.
It's worth thinking about. Is the impression that others get from you the one that you wish to portray?
Roy reminded me in my last blog post (about enjoyable ways to increase vocabulary) that reading non-fiction is a wonderful way to improve our understanding of language. I entirely agree! But I also find that it's good to have some kind of literature to read on the side; whole other worlds to explore besides our own. Both fiction and non-fiction make me gloriously happy.
There is no way that I can possibly choose a favourite novel (or even ten favourite novels), but lately I have been reading some really great novels that I enjoyed and that I believe more people should read:
- A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh: Infamous for his novel Brideshead Revisited (which most people will probably recognize as the film rather than the book), Waugh is a literary genius. His writing style reminds me of Graham Greene; this may be partly because both authors have the same kind of selfish, depressing characters that they delight in writing about. A Handful of Dust follows the story of an upper-class couple living in England and their doings within their social circles. The wife finds herself a deadbeat young man to have an affair with, and what follows is a series of remarkable and most unfortunate events for a number of people. It ends on a disturbing note which is completely unexpected; the story itself is a very real account of how people operate in society and the writing is beautiful to read.
- The Ladies of Grace Adieu and other stories by Susanna Clarke: I first became enamored with Clarke when I read her novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. One of the things that I love about her writing is that it is entirely different from any kind of modern writing. She has a completely unique style and a way with descriptions that make what could be lengthy, boring passages seem entirely necessary and fascinating. This book is more of a collection of short stories than a novel, but each story is interesting to read as Clarke combines fairy tales with history.
- The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley: Kearsley's novel intrigued me because a) it is about a writer, and b) parts of it take place during the same time period as Diana Gabaldon's historical fiction series (which I also adore). The Winter Sea is a fairly easy read, but that doesn't detract from the quality of the storyline: it is well-crafted with an intriguing look at how a writer creates her story. It follows the parallel lives of a woman in the modern times and a woman living during the uprising in Scotland, flipping back and forth between times.
- The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon: A book written from Aristotle's point of view as he instructs the child version of Alexander the Great, this novel combines philosophy with historical fiction. The voice of the narrator is astute at reading people, and the images in the book are presented in a frank and honest manner - the descriptions of the characters, and the way that the characters think, may seem a little extreme until you start to recognize that society across the ages has always had people who think and act in these extreme fashions.
- Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence: This novel was written in 1928, but it is surprisingly still easy to read and very accessible to readers today. It is not "just" a love story - in fact, I would hesitate to call it as such, although I am only about halfway finished reading the novel - but it rather is an accurate depiction of the rifts between personalities and social classes. Lawrence examines the basic components of respect and proper social conduct, and turns them over to demonstrate the ridiculousness in much that we say, do, and think. His style is engaging and his story pulls you in the more you read.
What novels have you been reading lately?
We can all benefit from taking the time to get to know our language better, increase our vocabularies, and improve the art of communication. Playing with words in games is a great way to do this. Here are a few ways that you can increase your vocabulary in social settings:
1) Scrabble: I have talked about my love of Scrabble before (which you can read by clicking here). This game involves arranging letters on a board to form words. The length of the words and the letters that you choose to use will give you a certain number of points for each round; at the end of the game, the player with the most points wins. Although you can still choose short words of three or four letters, you will likely earn more points if you think outside the box and form more unusual words.
2) Scattergories: This game is a little bit like a cross between Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble. A dice with nearly all of the letters of the alphabet on it (instead of numbers) is tossed. A timer is set for a couple of minutes, and your aim is to answer 12 questions from a card (such as "4-letter word", "dessert", "boy's name", "country") - all of your answers must start with the same letter that was rolled on the dice. This game also makes you think creatively. If the letter "C" comes up and one of the questions is "animal", you probably want to try to be more creative than "cat", because it is likely to be a word that the other players will also think of. If another person shares your answer, neither of you get points.
You earn more points if your answer is two words with the same letter (for example, using the answer "James Joyce" when the question is "famous author" and the letter is "J"). This game is bound to have a lot of laughter involved as silly answers turn up when players can't think of anything for a good answer.
3) The Dictionary Game: A game invented by the mother dear, father dear, sistertraveller and I, this game involves one person looking through the dictionary and picking an unusual word. They then say the word out loud, and the other players have a minute or two to come up with a definition for the word. Sometimes players will use logic to try to guess what the word might mean; other times, the answers might be complete silliness. At the end of the round, everyone shares their answers and then the person who chose the word tells everyone what the definition is. The closest person to the real definition wins.
With all of these games, you need to have a dictionary on hand - there are bound to be words that some players have never heard of before, so fact-checking is helpful. Using another resource like the Internet will also benefit you when players are unsure about the answer (for example, in a recent Scattergories game, I used the word "jicama" for the answer to "fruit". We looked it up and it turns out I was wrong; a jicama is a vegetable!). It can also be a good idea to keep a special notebook specifically for these games. Whenever you come across a word that you don't know, write it down in the notebook. We often retain information better if we write it down for ourselves.
Share other favourites in the comments section below!
I like grammar.
A change of vowel in related words or forms, esp. in Indo-European languages, arising from differences of accent and stress in the parent language, e.g. in sing, sang, sung. [German]
Why do I always want to write "vacuum" with two "c"'s and one "u"?