24 March 2010

Around About Way of Speaking

In my job I read a lot of policy documents and listen to presentations by public servants, experts and professionals.  Most of the time these are informative and essential for me to understand developments in the disability and nonprofit sectors.  Recently I have started to notice an expression that drives me absolutely bonkers; why do people say `around' when they mean `about' or `with'?

Maybe I'm just picky.  Maybe I take this all too much to heart.  I admit to becoming infuriated when I see the Grocer's Apostrope, where signs incorrectly indicate a plural with an apostrophe.  You know - "Apple's only $2" - as if the apple is down to it's last couple of bucks.  I'm not about to form a society to lobby against it but it does grate on my nerves when I see it.

The around trend is a bit different.  It seems people who are discussing strategy or policy think that to say "there are issues around this point" is a bit fancier than saying "there are issues about/with this point".  Like when people say `utilise' when they really mean `use'. It makes me think of a poor point, maybe overweight, good at its schoolwork, with red hair, surrounded by a mob of bogan issues, calling it a square.  I'm sure this is not what the person who says `around' is trying to provoke in my imagination.  Maybe they think that by saying `around' they are distancing things a bit, removing that element of blame or causation that words like `about' or `with' might indicate.  I'm really not sure.

What's worse is, I have heard it so many times, I said it myself the other day! I actually said to a client, "I know there are some problems around this".  I could feel it bubbling out of my brain and dripping out of my mouth with a bitter taste.  I said it anyway.  I don't know why I felt the need to say it.  I hate the phrase and yet in my attempt to sound like I was on top of things, an expert, a diligent strategist, it just popped out.

I know language is fluid, English perhaps more so than any other and I have accepted that not everyone cares about things like the difference between infer and imply.  I don't correct people - I think that is unforgivably rude - but I do try to regulate my own language. If I can't resist using `around' maybe I should just go with the flow and experience some linguistic freedom.

If you have any comments around this issue and what it infers for our utilisation of language, feel free to comment below.

09 March 2010

A great loss

I have had this blog set up for some time now but have not really felt compelled to actually write anything.  I have finally decided to put fingers to keyboard and express some of my less fleeting thoughts with the ether.

After having lap band surgery last August, I have today officially lost 30kgs.  While this may seem somewhat mundane - certainly insufficient to prompt anything as radical as blogging - I must confess to being rather pleased.  This achievement, if I can even call it that, is one that has eluded me for many years and signals a significant change in my life.

Before I go further, I must point out that these 30kgs are just a drop in the bucket.  Anyone meeting me on the street today would probably think "that guy needs to lose some weight".  And they would be right.  I have, as they say on terrible reality tv shows, just started my journey.  I have probably lost only one-third of the weight I need to lose and even then, I would be much larger than the average bear.  But this weight loss has created such change, in such a short period of time, that I am truly excited.

I did not realise just how bad I felt until I lost this weight.    I used to excuse myself by telling people I was happy, hardly ever got sick, have a beautiful wife, a great job and was even on tv for a mercifully brief time. These things were all true but disguised the burden that I carried, the burden of knowing I was morbidly obese and unable to change.

In the few months since my surgery, I have experienced dramatic increases in energy, focus and mental acuity.  I am able to cook, clean and do gardening, to the delight of my wife, without pausing for 15 minutes every 5 minutes to ease the pain in my lower back.  I find myself unable to sit still, casting about for things to clean, jobs to do.  This is unusual and somewhat unsettling for someone who prided himself on masterly inactivity.

I know a lot of people see lap band surgery as a cop out, a sign of weakness, an admission of defeat, a refuge  for people unable to control themselves and take responsibility for their lives.  I was certainly one of those people.  It took 2 years for me to decide that surgery was not only acceptable but probably necessary.  If anyone reading this is obese, has tried to battle with their body to no effect and is considering lap band surgery, I say give it deep thought.  Consider what consequences remaining obese will have for your life and the lives of those you love.  Consider what other measures you have tried to lose weight.  Consider that no option is perfect for everyone.  Finally, consider that I and thousands of others have been able to lose weight and improve our lives through lap band surgery.  Don't worry about what others think, unless they really understand what you are going through as an obese person.  Most people have no understanding of the barriers and difficulties obese people face in trying to lose weight.  It's not their fault. They remember losing 5 kgs for their wedding or the 10kgs they put on while holidaying they then had to lose and think that it just takes a little willpower and discipline.  They haven't looked down the barrel of having 90kgs to lose and cannot contemplate how anyone could even get to that point.

A good friend, Andy Brooke, and a comedian, Mikey Robbins, helped me realise that having lap band surgery was a choice, decisive action and taking responsibility for my weight.  My wife Marion helped me recognise that if there is technology or medical assistance to aid in fixing a medical problem, there is no shame in accepting that help.