Sunday, March 17, 2013

I have Jet Lag. But I didn't go anywhere!

I live in one of the areas of the United States that participates in Daylight Saving Time. That means that just last week, we moved all our clocks forward one hour. Ugh. So for the past week, it's been hard to go to sleep at the new bedtime. It's been hard to get up in the morning. My body's (and not just mine) internal clock did not get the memo that what feels like 6 am is actually 7 am. People with kids and pets are telling me how hard the change is at home.
All the symptoms of jet lag, but with the added bonus of not actually going anywhere.  ;-)

So can we call this jet lag? I would say yes - it seems that is the friendliest way we have to refer to this sense of being in the wrong time.

The clinical term for jet lag is circadian dysrhythmia. I know this not because I googled, but because growing up, my dad always "translated" jet lag. Just say the words to him and he'll tell you: That's circadian dysrhythmia. (This may explain, in part, my fascination with words.)

Isn't that a fantastic construction? It comes from two Latin roots and two Greek. The Latin roots are circa, meaning around or about, and dia from the Latin for day. Dysrhythmia comes from the Greek roots dys, meaning bad, and the Greek root for rhythm. So what it really means is an interruption to the rhythms of the day. I think it's safe to say we got that last week.

And for some time, I've been reading about another jet-free form of jet lag: social jet lag. Smithsonian Magazine did a nice piece on it last month  Your Alarm Clock May Be Hazardous to Your Health. They credit Till Roenneberg, a professor at the University of Munich’s Institute of Medical Psychology with coining the term "social jet lag". The article explains:
... unlike the jet lag you get from shifting time zones, social jet lag is the chronic clash between what our bodies need (more sleep) and what our lives demand (being on time).
There you have it. All the discomfort of jet lag, but without actually going anywhere.

As I write this, I think of my friends who will read it, and can't imagine anyone who doesn't suffer from this lack of sleep. We all have social demands on our time: work, kids, extra-curriculars. And who doesn't delay bedtime for Jimmy Fallon or Netflix?

Want to learn more about Circadian Rhythms? The biggest exposure I have had to this concept has been thanks to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda. But here is a nice article from the NIH

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why are you telling me?

Before I address language issues, I'd like to extend my condolences to the family of the hiker mentioned below. While the facts of his death have spurred a conversation about usage, his death surely remains a source of great pain to his loved ones. May you all find peace.

One problem with being interested in language is that often times people assume I will share their indignation at the “bad usage” they see in the world. Most of the time, I don’t.

I figure, if you can correct someone’s usage, it means you can understand it. And if you understand it, why are you correcting it? And why does the form of language (non-standard verb form, misspelling, etc) take precedence over the content?

One of these situations came up last week when someone came to me sharing some news from the local NBC site; a hiker had gone missing and there was a development in the story. Since the woman who shared the story is a hiker, I expected some details about the conditions, the trail, something like that. No, I got a rant about the news site's non-standard usage.

Here is a snapshot of the article on that day:

The rant went on about "how can college-educated people say that?" I put forth that this sort of thing is not actually taught in college, and that was actually accepted.
But the rant went on for a few more minutes, something about curtains and people.

Apparently 9news got the memo by the next day:

Our local ABC affiliate didn't change theirs until yesterday.

But why did they change it? The most recent survey of the American Heritage Dictonary Usage panel found that just under 1/3 of their panel approved the use of "hung" as the simple past and past participle for hang meaning death by hanging. And they are not alone. A quick phrase search on Google finds similar results for common usage. Today, the phrase "hanged himself" got me 944,000 results; "hung himself", 628,000.

So again, if you understand it, why are you correcting it?

But really, why are you telling me about it? I know the "rules". But I'm not likely to share your indignation. I can recommend a number of blogs and fb pages where you can rant to an audience who shares your perspective.

I know too many people who have suffered with the loss of a loved one through suicide. Here's a good local organization committed to suicide prevention.