I spent a day in the company of geeks

Jennie & Mary, tweeting.

I learned cool stuff about WordPress (this blog is made with WordPress software) – some of which I think I have to refresh if I can convince lovely Lisa to spend a couple of hours getting it to stick in my brain. During the day I learned bits and pieces about technology, just picked up here and there and difficult to quantify. There was a so-called unconference covering a wide variety of subjects, the more interesting (to me) were the one about how to go about writing a book (more geeky than you might think), the one about boosting your self confidence and the one about handling conflicts. Particularly the last one resonated deeply with me. Averse to conflict as I am.

I met some pretty gorgeous people, such as Camilla Ley Valentin from the wildly interesting start-up Queue-IT, the sweet & lovely journalist, blogger and author Dorte Chakravarty, the adorable stylist Judi Lund Finderup, the charming self-anointed Wellness Junkie Anne-Grete Belmadani, the mega inspiring coach Maria Gustavsson and the sexy journalist Ronnie Ritterland. And there were some recent acquaintances from Twitter, the funny and charming Jennie and the mischievous Mary. And many others who no doubt deserve to be mentioned, but whose names Néné, the scatterbrain, has forgotten or who don’t have a website known to me. Sorry!

There was a clothes swap, where you got a token for each piece of clothing you brought in and several little workshops where you could learn jewellery-making and alternative stuff to do with plastic pearls and t-shirts. A good deal of the geeks had brought knitting and some were even spotted embroidering. The food was lovely and the sweets golden in more senses than one.

The best licorice I've ever tasted. Seriously. www.lakrids.nu Photo by @risager

I suspect that I’ll meet several of these fabulous people again and that it won’t be the last time I go to geeky get-togethers.

Did I mention that we were only women?

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Am I a geek?

Some would say yes, others would say no. The yes-sayers are members of my family and some of my friends who find my rather intimate relationship with my laptop and my phone unnerving and unnatural. The no-sayers would be fellow bloggers and tweeters who routinely build own websites and say things about XHTML that I don’t understand…

When I saw Geek Girl Meet-Up (link in Danish) announced on Twitter I was attracted to it, but also very much in doubt as to whether I belong there or not. I still am, to be honest, although I am now officially a participant. I have been asked by a true geek (and this, in my book, is VERY positive), my friend Lisa (link in Danish), to describe what geeky stuff I can contribute with. Hm.

I just don’t think I’m geeky enough to contribute in a setting like that. At least not with traditionally geeky stuff. But there’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. And that is Danish/international companies’ use of English as corporate language.

I like it. I like it if we can emerge from our self-sufficient little island and become part of the world out there – being colleagues at work with people from all over the world and let ourselves be enriched. And English is the obvious choice in our part of the world, where the German, French and Spanish we learn at school are far from sufficient to get us through much more than ordering a meal at a restaurant.

As you all know, I love the English language in all its richness and complexity. I even make a living, more or less, from my love of this language. I love Danish too and would probably love every language I learned well enough. When I read a really beautiful sentence I go all soft and “aahhh”. Guess that’s pretty geeky in a way…

I don’t claim to speak or write it perfectly – don’t think I ever will. But I feel much better about this after my years in England, where I found that most English people don’t either…

What I’m trying to get to is this: Corporate-Speak is NOT English. The language non-English people speak amongst themselves is of course English. It’s just not, well, you know, English. (And it’s not American either). Each time you enter a big international company or go to a conference and listen to people speak, you hear a new, slightly different, version of Corporate-Speak. Then, when you start working with them on their texts, you get into the strangest discussions about language. Like, can we use “difficult” words when not everybody understands them? My claim is, yes, absolutely. You cannot and should not lower the level to some sort of 10.000-words lingo that everybody understands. That would be terrible. We would never do that if we wrote ads, articles, etc. in our own language!

The reverse is also a problem. A kind of imagined “over-familiarity” with the English language. We’ve discussed this on Twitter lately and all the English/American and bi-lingual totally agree. When Danes speak English, they adapt a tone that’s even more blunt than the “original” Danish. Read an article (in Danish) about that here. The f… word, which I could never write, is overused in Denmark, because Danes don’t grasp just how nasty a word it actually is. The fact that it can be heard on television a lot (although in the UK and US it’s usually beeped out) and that rap-artists believe it’s the most common word in the English language, does NOT make it acceptable in book titles, conference blurbs and adverts. It just doesn’t. Some people will think that I’m just an old hag who disapproves of swearing and “modernity”. But it is not so. I wish I was less prone to swearing, but I do swear more than I like to admit. I just don’t say the f… word, unless… There should be a wide gap between what you write in the public sphere and what you say when you stub your toe on the table-leg.

So, what I am is a language-geek. I don’t want to be a custodian, watching over a language spoken in bygone times, but I want us to maintain a rich and easily understandable language, be it Danish or English or any other. Easily understandable in the sense that sentences are complete, punctuated in such a way that they make sense when you read them, and in the sense that “difficult” words are used where they are necessary and not to show off.

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