From Word Distinction to Thinking BIG

We all want our communications to be clear and compelling. Choosing the right words is key. That’s harder than it sounds, especially when the meanings of very important words are evolving, just like our culture and our environment.  Which proves the old adage that change is the only constant in life.

So, in the past weeks we and our experts sliced and diced the current meaning of familiar words to help all of us see the difference between them so that we can pick the right word for the right situation. We tackled the difference between clean and green, smart and intelligent, real, natural and organic, and weather and climate. All words we learned decades ago, but with new meanings in today’s marketplace.

Rotary Phone

Take intelligent and smart. In the past, our telephones weren’t smart. They didn’t fetch you movie tickets or tell you the latest news and weather reports. Earlier versions were the rotary kind. Think back to when you had to put your finger in the hole of the corresponding number and then twirl it all the way around. Nines actually took awhile. No more rotary phones or phone booths, for that matter. Now we carry our individual smart phones and they do a lot of thinking for us.

When it came to intelligence, do you remember IQ tests? Sitting in our classrooms. Filling in blanks. Trying to figure out how long it would take train heading east going 40 miles an hour, facing headwinds of 10 miles an hour…

How about the differences with clean and green.  We learned that clean’s environmental tilt began back in the 1970s when the Clean Air and Clean Water acts came to being. If you lived in Pittsburgh in the 1950s, you would have clearly understood the need for upgrades to air quality. And, Cleveland once had a river – yes, a river – catch fire.

Cuyahoga River Fire in 1952
(Credit: Ohio Historical Society)

So we learned from our many contributors how the meaning of these words is evolving and what they best describe today. We thank them for the time they shared with all of us about the nuances that change the meaning of these words.

We would like to thank:

Kristin Hansen, Sustainability Analyst at the University of California, San Diego

Christina Milesi, PhD., Research Scientist at the Ecological Forecasting Lab at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field in Silicon Valley

Cara Pike, Director of Climate Access

Daniel Tynan, Technology Writer and Contributing Editor for PC World and InfoWorld who also recently launched a new geek humor website titled eSarcasm along with partner JR Raphael.

Scott Murray, an organic farmer and president of San Diego Slow Food.

Jay Porter, owner of The Linkery, a popular farm-to-table restaurant in North Park, San Diego.

In addition to our guest interviewees, we’d like to thank Gary Bradski, Senior Scientist at Willow Garage, a robotics application incubator in Menlo Park, who also contributed to the blog.

We also would like to credit Carl Wunsch, the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physical Oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Art Markman, a University of Texas at Austin psychology professor and author of the book, Smart Thinking, whom we also mentioned in our commentaries

For our next topic, we take a cue from Labor Day. In this instance that labor is reflected in the nation’s big projects. Do we, as a nation, still think big? And what’s the best way to communicate the need for large-scale projects? The Golden Gate Bridge was built during the Great Depression, after all.

Golden Gate Bridge
(Credit: Rich Niewiroski Jr)

There is much to explore on that topic and we can’t wait to share with you what we discover. We’ll return in September, eager, ready and rested from a long, holiday weekend.

Keep reading and thank you in advance for your comments. We welcome them.

Catherine Smith, President
Collaborative Services, Inc.

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