Sunday, November 15, 2009

Lover of words


I came to Enterprise Risk Management , a/k/a Business Continuity, via tech pubs.

I got to tech pubs via honest (newspaper) reporting ("journalism" is far too fancy a word for what I wrote) and public relations. I came to reporting (and later editing) from the Orlando Sentinel's "back shop" where, back in the day, metal type (slugs) were carefully placed into forms (chaises) on rolling tables (turtles).

I "lucked into" the backshop having put in an application immediately following separation from the Flyin' Corps - don't call us, we'll call you, said the HR person. Two weeks later she DID, to my surprise.

But, as usual, I digress.

Lacking a journalism, or any other, degree, all I had to open the door to editorial was chutzpah (I knew I could write at least as well as the reporters at the Sentinel (and later Today), my journeyman printer status, and a vocabulary that, while hardly a match for either Hubert Humphrey on the Left or William Buckley on the Right - or even Spiro Agnew who also knew how to turn a phrase - was greater than most, and I deliberately chose the word "greater" in this case. Never mind that my spelling was suspect; there are proofreaders to save my copy (and to all the proofreaders - and typesetters - who DID save me from embarrassment, thank you).

My love of words commenced - began, even - before I crossed the threshold of Benjamin Harrison PS #2 for the first time as a first grader. I had an "in" at the Indianapolis Public Library. (As it happens, I still have an "in" at the library; Donna Foster, a different person - my original long since departed this world - but one I value highly.)

As a tyke, I was read to and I read. (I also was taken to hear the Indianapolis Symphony, both kids' concerts such as Peter and that large predatory canid and "adult" evenings, but that is a topic for another time.)

I read everything I could hold in my hands. True, this was before tv, but radio was entertaining, so I had options. But in addition to a floor-model Philco roll-top radio, we had books, and the main library was just a block down the alley. My reading never was restricted - if I could reach it, I could (try to) read it.

One thing about reading is that the reader's vocabulary increases by osmosis; kids especially are sponges and, unknowingly, I sponged up a great deal of what I read. I remembered the words, but to my misfortune, not always how to spell the words.

Rather akin to Eliza Doolittle (Pygmalion, My Fair Lady), how one speaks - and the vocabulary the person has at "tongue" - really does influence how people respond.

Put another way, "It's not what you say, it's how you say it." With class, but never condescendingly.

Besides letting me squeeze into the editorial department - I got a cub reporter job on a small northern Indiana daily - my way with words helped keep my nose from being "reshaped" by some folks who may have found my opinions "objectionable."

It's been a few years since I got my first library card - now I have a plastic one with a bar code, progress I can appreciate (but, even though I am "computer literate," I miss the card files) - and I still love to read.

Maybe because the general quality of tv is less than it could be, I still find it easy to pick up a book and ignore the tube. I'm not sure my vocabulary is growing as fast as it did in my youth, but thanks to my reading habits, the library card, and the Internet, it's not for lack of material to read.

John Glenn, MBCI
Enterprise Risk Management practitioner and reader


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