I came across a great website the other day. It was referenced in a BBC article on the best countries to live in. It’s called The Good Country.

Want to know how your country ranks globally across a range of different criteria? Maybe you’re thinking of relocating or going on an extended break somewhere and want to check out your new host nation? The Good Country is just what you need.

The Good Country measures each country’s global contribution along a bunch of general axes:

  • Science & Technology
  • Culture
  • International Peace & Security
  • World Order
  • Planet & Climate
  • Prosperity & Equality
  • Health & Wellbeing

Within each axis it then subdivides into sub-criteria. For example, under Planet & Climate they score you according your performance in these areas:

  • Ecological footprint
  • Environmental agreements compliance
  • Hazardous pesticides exports
  • Renewable energy share
  • Ozone

Each country is ranked on each axis, which rolls up to an overall rank. Spoiler alert – Finland is top.

The Good Country is a fascinating resource if you like those macro indicators and trends.

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I travel on Irish trains a lot. You might too. In fact you might be reading this on the train. Central Dublin, for example, is far easier to reach by train and LUAS than by car, and you can work on the train, obviously, or ‘obvs’ as the young people of the world write in their SMS messages. I always book my train ticket online in advance, unless I’m heading somewhere local like Galway and I’ve left it too late.

The booking system is very straightforward, and they always offer you a choice of manual or automatic seat selection, as well as whether you want your name or your booking number above your seat. 19 times out of 20 I will choose automatic seat selection, opt for the booking number display – some kind of English, under-the-radar thing no doubt – and sit where I like.

On this occasion, I manually picked my seat – A26, a rather pleasing rear-facing aisle seat in the lead coach – and also opted to have my name up there. Why not, I reasoned.

The following morning the train duly arrived, and I hopped onto the lead coach to locate my seat. I couldn’t see my reservation for A26. There was no name up there, and none for the chap sat close by me who was travelling by train for the first time in ages.

I sat somewhere else, like I normally do; the train wasn’t busy. 30 minutes into my journey, I realised that the train was back to front. I was in coach E, not coach A. The lead coach, the one that arrives closest to the station exit, is normally coach A. Not on this occasion. It’s also not that easy to know which coach you’re on. You have to get on and wait for the coach ticker tape to tell you, by which time on a normal busy service all the good seats are gone.

Later that day, on the return journey home, I made a point of going to the exact seat I had booked, on the correct coach. They were no bookings at all showing on the train.

Both journeys kind of defeat the purpose of booking, I thought. I might go back to my 19 times out of 20 thing.

A good while ago I wrote about how strategy and execution are joined at the hip, but that one tends to attract a higher consulting rate than the other. It’s hard to have one without the other. If you have little or no strategy and you execute like mad, you will have some success, but not as much as you might have hoped. If you don’t execute on a good strategy, you don’t really have anything.

I was reminded of this in a recent post by Tom Tunguz on the importance of execution. He referred to an HBR article from over three decades ago about ‘hustle’ – or the concept of getting it done – as the strategy. The central premise was – and still is – that it’s really hard to get competitive advantage, let alone sustain it, so you’re better off executing your plan better than everyone else.

I think a lot of people who work in areas where it’s hard to genuinely differentiate will identify with this approach. You still need to plan well, hire well and measure well, however.

Execution is what separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls, and the growing companies from the struggling companies. It’s about following through, staying the course and closing the loop. You need to just do it, repeatedly.

Are you a taker or a maker? There are those of us who make stuff, and those of us who take stuff.

You can look at this at two levels. At the first level it’s simple commerce, the transaction between buyer and seller. A manufacturer makes something and the customer or consumer takes it, for an agreed price. It’s a fair exchange, in most cases, otherwise it often ends up being the last exchange between those two parties.

In the wider sense there are those that make something. They create something, they offer it up. It might be their time in the form of volunteering. It might be a form of social enterprise to benefit the community. They might invent something that they give away. Then there are those that take that something. They use it, consume it. Sometimes they thank the maker, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they don’t pay it back, in other words make something for somebody else to take and give back. They leave a debt to the community, they’re in debit. The makers create something for the community, they’re in credit. Sometimes the makers object to this and stop making. Sometimes they don’t and carry on making.

So the question remains: are you a taker or a maker?

 

I used the phrase ‘between you and I’ in an email the other day, thinking this was the correct version of the second pronoun in that colloquial clause. Fortunately, the subjective and objective pronouns for the second person – you – are the same.

Not so the first person singular – or plural for that matter – where we have to go with either I or me, or we or us. I thought that between you and I was slightly over-formal, but correct.

Wrong! Apparently it’s between you and me, because the you and me are objects of between, if you get the grammar there. Making this mistake appears to have vexed a lot of people, if you google the incorrect version of the phrase…

I guess I could argue that email is a hybrid form of spoken English and written English and, therefore, I can get away with it. Maybe I’m clutching at straws. Far better to do what one of my American bosses used to do a few years ago. ‘Between us girls’ he would say, even if there were no people of the female persuasion in the conversation.

Or is it between we girls? Argh! Same mistake as between you and ! :-).

And so we conclude this short burst of 3 of my favourite examples from Jeff Kacirk’s Forgotten English calendar, a daily dip into ancient and obscure words. If you want to see more of them, you’ll have to make a purchase, unless a showcase a few more towards the end of the year.

My last choice is:

Blatteration. Glorious! Defined in Samuel Johnson’s famous mid-eighteenth-century dictionary as a senseless roar, from the Latin blatteratio, which I’d never heard in my years of classical study. It’s also related to blatent (sic), as in bellowing.

It might not be related to blatant, as in screamingly obvious, which is a pity…

I can’t see this word finding its way into everyday twenty-first-century conversation, can you?

Today I’m continuing this week’s 3-part series of my favourite days from Jeff Kacirk’s Forgotten English page-a-day calendar, which sits proudly on my desk.

My second selection is this:

Puckersnatch.

A glorious word, not least because it comes up on my birthday. It’s a great word to enunciate as loudly as possible, giving one a relaxing sense of release.

It means a difficult or complicated situation, and originates in Southern Vermont where presumably these kids of quandaries were regular enough to coin a word for them.

I haven’t a clue as to the etymology of the word, and neither does anyone else from a quick trawl of the ‘net, but I love it all the same.

This week my three posts will be my favourite examples from a 2019 page-a-day calendar, a rather nice gift that I received for Christmas. I have a soft spot for linguistics and language, so this daily nugget is right up my street.

Jeff Kacirk’s Forgotten English is a delightful daily combination of a defined ‘olde’ word or phrase and a short celebration of something or someone notable. The word and the celebration are often connected.

Here’s my first choice:

For All Waters

This feeds right into my generalist leanings. If you’re for all waters it means that you can turn yourself to any job, rather like one of those fish that can thrive in either the sea or rivers, lakes and ponds. Apparently it’s from Bill Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, which is nice.

I’m going to try and fit into conversation without sounding pompous.

Digital marketing is one of those terms that has tended to confuse people over the last few years. It’s become very high profile of late, to the point where people believe that digital marketing is all of marketing, and all there is to do in marketing. That’s not the case though.

Sure, it’s an important part of the marketing mix, but to focus on it simply because all people seem to talk about these days is social media or mobile is short-sighted.

Digital marketing is really about electronic marketing, a form of marketing that is received through an electronic device, hence the term ‘digital’. More often than not this means online marketing, using the Internet as the medium, as in on-the-Internet marketing.

Under this banner we can put types of marketing like social media marketing, search engine optimisation marketing and pay-per-click marketing – like good Adwords – to name a few. Email marketing, a good bit older than my three examples, comes under this heading too, since we’re talking about the device through which you deliver and consume the marketing.

There are other forms of marketing that are digital but not necessarily online. These might be electronic billboards, on-screen demos and good old-fashioned telly. For more examples of digital marketing and a good definition of it, go here.

Digital marketing gets the headlines and its fair share of budget but it’s just one part of the marketing pie, alongside traditional marketing and hybrid forms of the P that is promotion. You’ve got events, non-electronic advertising, direct mail, public relations among others, and we haven’t even got to the other three P’s of the 4-legged P stool – which sounds a bit unappealing – namely product, price and place.

A couple of blog posts ago – an English couple, not an Irish couple – I closed what I felt was an important post with these two words – just deserts. That’s deserts with the stress on the second syllable, not the first, which is obviously something else completely.

It’s a tricky one though, isn’t it? Desserts – as in puddings – is pronounced the same way as the non-arid version of deserts. So which one is the right one to use for this particularly arcane phrase?

It’s deserts, of course, with one ‘s’, as it derives from the same family of words as ‘deserve’. Deserts are what you deserve. So are desserts as well, if you’ve a sweet tooth like me, but now I’m digressing.

The only time I suppose you could justifiably write Just Desserts would be if all your business produced or served were puddings.

Probably enough said on this, unless you want to go here for slightly more…