Monday, April 24, 2006

Quick conference recap

I'm back from Cleveland; I hope everyone was checking out the ACES conference blog, where I had time for a couple of posts (not nearly as many as I had intended).

There was one about the session on deciding if management is right for you. Here's most of it:
Despite the Wednesday night fun at Flannery's Pub ... and then the Winking Lizard ... and then the hotel lobby, I managed to register this morning and make it to the first session on time. I went to "Do You Really Want to Be the Boss?" with William Connolly, Marlene Bagley, Sara Hendricks and Scott Toole.

They laid out some pros (pay, prestige, a bigger chance to make a difference) and cons (longer hours, meetings, putting up with cranky underlings and overlings). Connolly made the point that you may lose friends once you become a manager: He had a friend once, he said, who thought he was a genius when they were peers. But once he became that friend's boss, he became the stupidest man alive.

Another suggestion: Don't holler and lose your cool. And if you do have to lose your cool, do it behind closed doors.

The main message was that a good copy editor who gets a promotion won't necessarily be a good manager. My thought: Taking promotion for promotion's sake could end up hurting your career in the long run if you're no good at managing.
The big shock of the conference: I got to meet Erin McKean, who is just as delightful as you'd expect. I was a little embarrassed; I had just written a post about her after her session Friday morning.
I think I should just get it over with and start an Erin McKean fan club. I'd be assured many members, and we could all wear cool glasses and retro dresses and sweater sets to show our respect.

I know why NPR called her America's Lexicographical Sweetheart.

Her session today, with Copy Editor's Wendy Nichols, was fantastic. McKean (who is editor in chief of American dictionaries for Oxford University Press) is just such a polished presenter; she had so many fun examples and clever anecdotes. To wit:
  • Someone tried to pay her $5 to take irregardless out of the dictionary. She said, first of all, I can't be bribed. Second of all, if I could, it wouldn't be for $5.
  • She talked about the "Usual Suspects" rule of dictionary reading: Don't leave before the twist at the end. You may be reading a clump of definitions that all have to do with the core meaning; it's at the end that the funky stuff shows up.
  • People are using ahem as a verb for online downloading: "I ahemmed the new Gnarls Barkley CD last night; it's so good!" It won't be in the dictionary any time soon, but finding new uses like that can be exciting -- even if you wouldn't allow it in a 1A story.
  • Online or print dictionaries? That depends on what you want. McKean compared the online search to a commando raid: You get parachuted in, you take out your target, and they lift you back out. But looking up a word in a book is like an over-land invasion: You're on a trek through all this land, picking up skills and intelligence as you go. One destination may just lead you to another.
And, back to asshat, it won't be enough for just us bloggers to use the word. When you find it in teen movies and zines, that won't get it in the dictionaries, either. Now, if it's in the Economist without scare quotes, she said, then they might consider it.
The asshat reference had been mentioned earlier on the ACES blog. McKean was talking about how Google hits aren't enough to decide whether a word is useful enough to put in the dictionary. She gave asshat as an example. You'll find a million references to the word on Google but only a handful on a Google Books search. A lot of young Web-reading types use the word, but it's not embraced by the general public, and therefore a dictionary entry wouldn't be useful enough to merit its inclusion.

Also, McKean's favorite word is erinaceous: of, like or pertaining to the hedgehog. Only useful enough to be in the OED, where the useful bar is lower.

That's probably enough surmising for one post, but I have a lot of other sessions to share: Lessons from the City Desk, by Alex Cruden; Morale: Who Needs It? by Arlene Schneider and Lew Serviss; America's Next Top Copy Editor, by Ron Smith, Jackie Jones and Doris Truong; Surviving and Thriving in the Slot, by Deirdre Edgar and Jeff Pierron; Women in Management, by Leslie Guevarra, Anne Ferguson-Rohrer, Melissa McCoy and Teresa Schmedding; Getting It Right, by Merill Perlman; and OK, Listen Up, This is Simple, by Phillip Blanchard, J.A. Montalbano and Mary Ellen Slayter.


At 10:47 PM, April 24, 2006, Anonymous doris said...

Sign me up for the ALS fan club! Her presentation was outstanding, and I was hard-pressed to capture her wit and enthusiasm in telling others about it.

Good seeing you -- even if Winking Lizard outings weren't as frequent as expected.

At 3:27 PM, April 25, 2006, Blogger Nicole said...

Thanks for the note, Doris!

I would have liked to hit the Winking Lizard a few more times; there were so many beers there to explore! As it was, the local Dortmunder was a good find. (And I liked the Eliot Ness, too, even if most others did not.)

If we start this fan club, I think we have to sew our own skirts using vintage material bought on eBay. I've got some learning to do.


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