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English Detective #40, Engaging with work and life: June 3, 2014
June 03, 2014

The current investigation (Introducing this issue):

This newsletter looks at how the young people of the “Millennial Generation” (or Gen Y, people born in the 1980s or ‘90s) engage with their jobs, their communities, and their plans for life.

There’s an article for businesses on the ways they need to change to keep their younger employees motivated, and a 6 minute TED talk about “grit”-- the determination and toughness of mind that the speaker found to be the most important character trait for reaching success.

Both the article and the talk emphasize that talent is not enough for success in business or life. Attitudes, motivation, and a willingness to get involved and do “whatever it takes” to reach a goal matter far more.

The Linked-In article is about how corporations must engage with and inspire their Millennial employees. It’s well worth reading-- especially if you’re in that generation, or teach or mentor them. It’s a great discussion of cross-generational expectations and some ways of dealing with them.

Angela Duckworth talks about her research showing that ‘grit’ rather than IQ, talent, popularity, or health was the most important factor in predicting an individual’s long-term success. She explains what grit is and why it matters.

In addition, there’s a link to a crossword that practices the review vocabulary and related words, and a wordplay activity with sensory adjectives (starting with ‘gritty.’)

For this summer (and possibly next year), English Detective will come out once a month instead of every two weeks. Enjoy your summer!

Your First Clue: Vocabulary Emphasized in this Issue

Review vocabulary: challenge, crucial, network. (See crossword.)

New vocabulary: engagement (and disengaged), entrepreneur, grit, intrapreneur, perseverance, stamina, talent.

A few notes about the new vocabulary:

Engagement is emotional involvement with a job or an issue. If someone is disengaged from their work, they still go to work and put in their hours, but they are not very interested. They do not identify with the company or care very much if it does well, and they are not willing to make sacrifices or a great effort for it to succeed.

An entrepreneur is a person who is willing to take the risks of starting a small business rather than working for someone else. The ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ is an attitude of ambition, self-confidence, and willingness to work long and hard to make a business succeed.

Grit-- see the Wordplay activity below.

‘Intrapreneur’ is a new word (now accepted in dictionaries) for people who work in larger companies but are allowed a lot of freedom to manage a section as if they were entrepreneurs. They show a willingness to try new ideas and take big risks for potentially big rewards.

To persevere is to keep on working on something as long as necessary. Perseverance combines patience and determination.

Stamina is strength and endurance-- the ability to keep going for a long time, even when tired.

Talent is natural ability in some skill or art. Talented singers, actors, writers, or sports players have a head start toward success, but talents must be trained and developed to reach full potential.

Getting the whole story: reading/listening practice:

Click here for the article on engaging the millennial generation. (You might have to click on a button to enter the mobile site before getting to the article. Keep going!)

Here is the TED talk on grit. (You can look at the transcript-- the written text of the talk-- just below the title.)

Follow the Clues (Vocabulary Practice):

Click here for the crossword. The answers are here.

Word Play:

The word ‘grit’ originally described pieces of sand or fine gravel -- rough small particles people don’t want rubbing against their clothes or fine furniture and damaging them. We also talk about “gritting our teeth”-- to clench them tightly together to help endure pain-- or to determine to do what must be done in a very hard situation.

The meanings of ‘grit’ slowly expanded to describe character as well: a person with grit is tough and determined and will not give up easily. (Note that ‘tough’ is another word that started with a simple physical meaning and is now used for personality as well.)

So something gritty is covered with grit or rough and unrefined. You can read reviews about “gritty” movies and gritty (working-class, tough, and possibly dangerous) neighborhoods.

There are many similar adjectives for personality traits that come from words for textures and other physical metaphors from the sense of touch.

We might call a negative, unpleasant person ‘abrasive.’ (He or she “rubs you the wrong way” and is uncomfortable to be around, like rubbing sandpaper against tender skin.)

When we call a person ‘warm’ or ‘cold’, we’re usually not talking about their temperature. Can you think of other adjectives like these?

Here are a few more: rough, soft, hard, steely, spineless, prickly, smooth, and delicate. Think about the connotations of each word-- not always the same when applied to people as when used about things. I love feeling smooth surfaces, but smooth-talking salespeople make me uncomfortable-- I don’t trust them. ‘Steely’ and its near-opposite ‘delicate’ can be compliments or insults, depending on the circumstances.

I suspect the connotations vary by culture, as well. (I believe the delicate princess who couldn’t tolerate a dried pea under many mattresses was admired-- or envied-- when the story of the Princess and the Pea was first told many generations ago. Now ‘grit’ is admired and many would despise her.)

What about in your area/culture/group of friends? If you have any comments or ideas about similar words (in English or not) I’d love to hear them. Just send a reply to this email, below. I can include it in the next issue-- with or without your name, as you like. ______________________________

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Coming in next month: “The Power of Good”-- stories of Holocaust rescues.

In case you missed these: Earlier issues of English Detective have articles on a number of topics, plus practice with all 570 words from the Academic Word List. You can check them out with the link to the back issues page below (or find what words were practiced each issue here.

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