11 April 2014

Are all social workers employed by the NHS as big a waste of our money as this one?

You'd have thought that all social workers would understand the basics of interaction and/or how to communicate with people they haven't met before.

But the one I've just been interrogated by broke every rule of turn-taking that's so far been described by conversation analysts and other researchers -- e.g. absurdly long pauses for no apparent reason, giving no hint whatsoever about what kind of response he might be expecting and randomised facial expressions and non-verbal behaviour, etc., etc.

And 'interrogation' is, alas, the operative word. As co-author with Paul Drew of a book on courtroom language  (Order in court: the organisation of verbal interaction in judicial settings, Macmillan Press, 1979) we learnt about some of the differences between examination in chief and the more aggressive cross-examination.

This particular social worker used cross-exmination continuously and, when asked why he was doing it, confessed that he didn't know there's a difference, let alone what any such difference might be.

I could write a book about him but have neither the time nor or inclination to embark on such a depressing project.

Meanwhile, let's hope he's the only incompetent twit we're paying for...

6 April 2014

Regional accents

A fascinating piece on the regional accents of the British Isles. Well worth close study...

2 April 2014

Does anyone else have and/or know to whom these books might belong?

Thorstein Veblen, The theory of the leisure class, The Macmillan Company, 1899.

Dale Carnegie, How to win friends and influence people, Cedar Book, 1953.

David Kogan & Maurice Kogan, The Battle for the Labour Party,  Fontana Paperbacks, 1982.

Bertrand Russell,  Has Man a Future?  Allen & Unwin, 1961 (a Penguin Special 2'6).

HINT: From schoolboy to sociologist to ...?


31 March 2014

Blogging continued...

First, many thanks to loyal readers who've kept on visiting during my unannounced 'Spring Break' - which is now over.

Second, I'll still be blogging on some of the themes touched on in my previous 1,000+ blog pages.

Third, I'll be touching on some new themes that may sometimes  seem to be verging on the obscure.

And, if you're wondering why there are only three points above - says he modestly - read one of my books and/or watch this space...

22 February 2014

Flood defence staff and floating voters

In case you missed last night's News Quiz on BBC Radio 4, the opening newspaper report is well worth listening to for another triggered metaphor worth adding to those mentioned in my last post about people being in the same boat and out of their depth in their comments on the flooded Somerset Levels:

"From the Guardian G2: 'About 550 flood defence staff are threatened with redundancy. Chris Smith hopes that, with an election around the corner, the views of floating voters might well force a change of heart.'"

3 February 2014

Metaphors from the flooded Somerset Levels playing field


Somerset Levels

The Sky News website has been reporting some linguistically interesting comments on the floods on the Somerset Levels (above).

According to Gavin Sadler, a member of campaign group Flooding on the Levels Action Group (FLAG): "We were in the same boat last year and were told it was a one in a 100-year flood - now it's happened again."

Meanwhile,  shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle told Sky's Murnaghan programme "The Environment Secretary appears to me to be out of his depth. He's just not taking it seriously".

'Triggered metaphors' are close relations of 'triggered puns', on which I've blogged previously from time to time and on which you can see more HERE and HERE.

Needless to say, contributions of similar examples are always welcome ...

24 January 2014

Capturing details in a speech: a musical reminder of failure

Prelude & Fugue BWV 846 No. 1   in C Major by Bach piano sheet music
Yesterday, I had my first piano lesson for 55+ years, which reminded me of something I gave up on when starting the research into political speeches that eventually resulted in Our Masters' Voices in 1984 - links to the story of which can be found HERE.

It was easy enough to collect tapes of political speeches, but many of the most significant findings from conversation analysis had come from detailed transciptions of recordings of actual conversations (for more on the methodology of which, see Structures of Social Action (1984).

So the first challenge was how to transcribe the lines spoken just before bursts of applause in the speeches. Variations in intonation clearly mattered, not least because the way speakers talked in speeches featured more (and longer) pauses and much more marked tonal shifts upwards and downwards than is typically found in everyday conversation.

I started by trying to capture such details by trying to transcribe syllables, words, sentences and phrases on the different lines and spaces in the staves of blank musical manuscript paper. But two obstacles stood in my way.

One was that it was far more time-consuming than doing the transcripts in Our Masters' Voices - which took well over an hour to transcribe each 10 seconds of speech.

The second one, as I realised again yesterday, was that I was never much good at sight-reading music anyway, so my attempts to capture details of the beat, timing and positioning of words on the lines and spaces of a stave were doomed to failure.

I'm hoping that it may not be too late to improve my sight-reading of music - but have no illusions about my chances of ever being able to write music, let alone to transcribe speeches, on manuscript paper...