Fake Language? How To Know If You’re A User.

“You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.” Martin Luther

Throughout this year, I seem to be using fewer words. One — I don’t need to talk as much; I seem to be spending much more time listening, Two — I seem to be reading more than I’m writing; I’m in absorption mode. Having spent more time listening and absorbing, I’ve begun to notice the language we use, especially words that tend to be overused. I’ve also noticed that many of us users haven’t thought about the meaning behind our words. Despite the fact that the language choices we make (and the hidden meanings behind those language choices) are vital.

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Have you ever noticed the titles of the ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ from the TV show Get Smart? The ‘goodies’ were named ‘Control’ and the ‘baddies’ were named ‘Chaos’ (spelled Kaos). Consider for a moment the hidden message here. Control = good, chaos = bad. Wouldn’t you love to have overheard the conversation that occurred behind the naming of these two groups!

Alternatively, consider Orwell’s thoughts on the use of language to control the mind and exude power over others. In my experience, it appears to be that those who use the correct buzzwords are those with the power; making others around them feel inferior and out-of-the-loop. Check out the website below and consider the ways in which we use ‘Doublespeak’ (Orwell’s term).


We often talk about the importance of our organisations having a “common language”. Generally, what people mean by that is that when Person A is talking about [insert overused term here], Person B creates the same association with that word as the speaker and thus better communication ensues. Let’s test how common our language really is. Humour me for a moment and take out a writing implement. Write down these words and then the immediate association you have with these words (NB Don’t think too hard about them and definitely don’t google them):

  • Outcomes
  • Results
  • Innovation
  • STEM
  • Wellbeing

If you would, choose 1 word and post on Twitter why that one word changes when applied to learning with the #commonlanguage and @notosh . I’ll collate the data and post the results on back on Twitter under the same handles.

All of the terms above are currently buzzwords in the education space but what do they really mean? What do they mean to you, your context and the wider context? Here’s an idea — In the next meeting with your colleagues, conduct the same activity and share what was written down. This would be a great way to determine genuine common language and terms that need defining as well as develop collective empathy.

I encourage us all to compare the various meanings and, perhaps, set ourselves and our teams a mission to find the most appropriate term according to what it is we all really mean.

Another great article to read about the power of words is this one below:


Three Reasons We All Need To Have A Amateur Mindset

Amateurs, on the other hand, make mistakes often and freely; undeterred and focussed on the ever-elusive prize ahead.

I’ve been thinking a lot about amateurs of late… as I’m about to become one again. Just take a moment to reflect on the last time you were a novice. Was it last year? Five years ago? Twenty years ago?

Back at school, we were used to being the amateur but, especially as teachers, we tend to be more comfortable in the “expert” phase of our life seasons.

I’ve had quite a number of careers – outdoor adventure leader, teacher, salesperson, fitness instructor, TV presenter and now… consultant AND mother. That’s a lot of new stuff to learn. But, why should we bother being a novice again? Why shouldn’t I rest on my laurels after all of the effort I’ve gone to becoming an expert in my field?

  1. Amateurs Prioritise Growth (Eckert, 2016)

In his book, The Novice Advantage, Eckert categorises educational novices into 3 distinct characters:

  • The Beginning Novice – one who is inexperienced yet enthusiastic
  • The Experienced Novice – one who is experienced yet still passionate about learning new things
  • The Perpetual Novice – one who continually challenges oneself to move out of his/her comfort zone

Where do you fit in this list? There is, however, important aspects that these different archetypes have in common – they continue to develop as a learner through rising above setbacks, continuing to be curious and innovating. The novice understands that they will never “get there”… because “there” doesn’t exist.

2. Amateurs Are More Motivated 

Have you ever noticed how amateurs are curious? Our 4 year-old wants to know the answer to any and every question. In fact, toddlers ask around 400 questions per day.


When I was beginning my career in the TV industry, I wanted to know everything. I read ratings reports and newspaper articles on new programs that were being developed. I discovered producers and uncovered their contact details. I watched advertisements and quiz shows with a new awareness. I read autobiographies of television personalities to discover their secrets. I even drove 8 hours every Saturday for a term, whilst working full-time, to nurture my presenting skills.

You see, amateurs tend to try anything and everything with audacious disregard for time and space (Merredin, 2012). Amateurs understand that they need to keep motivated in order to learn more… that they haven’t (and may never… hopefully never, reach a pinnacle). Because they often treat their work like a hobby rather than a “job”, they’ll happily continue to craft their skills for hours/days/months on end like a kid learning to ride a bike. It’s astonishing how amateurs find “extra” time to hone their skills.

3. Amateurs Make More Mistakes

…and thus, continue to have a Growth Mindset about their failings. Amateurs understand that mistakes are part of the learning process and they are less attached to perfection. Dweck (2014) calls this the “Power of Not Yet”. Ever notice how perfectionists find change difficult? They don’t want to take risks because they’re afraid to make mistakes… Perhaps, mistakes may damage their professionalism or even their profession. Amateurs, on the other hand, make mistakes often and freely; undeterred and focussed on the ever-elusive prize ahead. They allow mistakes to make them stronger rather than be damaged by them.

May I encourage you… (not actually a question #justsaying) Find something in 2017 in which you can be an amateur  – or, maybe, just make that your attitude.