The Speech Dudes are nothing if not quirky when it comes to content for a blog post. You might think that being Speechies working in the field of AAC we’d be keen and eager to write endless articles about how to best serve the population who would benefit from being provided with aided solutions to help communication. And yes, we do that from time to time because we really do want to share any thoughts and ideas we might have that have some value. But our interests extend outside of our careers into other aspects of life. And for Dude One (Russell) a more general fascination with language as a cultural phenomenon means that the very stuff of communication as a whole provide an endless source of spell-binding interest.
Which is why the discovery of a new word can be so exciting and mind-boggling that I’m finding it hard not to share. It’s not that the new word is one that I’m likely to use in everyday conversation but the more enchanting question is why the word exists in the first place.
The word is aproctous, and means “without an anus.” And if you’re now thinking, “Dude, why would you ever need to use that?” then you’re exactly in the place I am. It comes from the Greek ἀ meaning “without” and πρωκτός meaning “anus.” It’s such an odd word that it’s not even an official Scrabble word, which is a shame because that’s possibly the only situation in which I might actually use it.
To check how folks might be using it I turned to the iWeb Corpus, a web-based collection of over 14 billion words from 22 million web pages. Surprisingly, there is not ONE single example of aproctous to be found, and includes any posts like this one talking about how aproctous isn’t used!
Of the instances where it appears, the primary use is in zoology to describe two sub-branches of the class of animals called Brachiopodia called Rhynchonellidae and Terebratuladae, which, bizarre as it may sound, don’t have an ass. Of course, I’m sure they have some other way of expelling waste as an alternative but quite frankly I don’t have the time nor inclination to spend time finding out. Suffice to say that in relation to the word itself, its use in biology is fairly narrow.
There was also a Death Metal band from 1991 called Aproctous who appear to have had a stunningly unsuccessful career, probably not as a result of their choice of band name. But other than those references, there are no other significant example of the word being used.
I’m great believer in giving rare and obscure words their moments in the sun. I mean, who hasn’t wanted to say something like “We enjoyed the brastling campfire”  or “It was so cold that Dan was left with a nirled scrotum”  or perhaps “I bought my oranges from the local oporopolist” , all of which contain words that are stunningly rare but, to my ears, really do deserve to be aired at least once per decade.
Still, if you can find a way to slip aproctous into a conversation, by all means do so – and make sure you let us know how it went.
 brastle (v.): To crackle, clatter, and roar as a fire. Old English “brastlian.”
 nirled (adj.): Shriveled, shrunken, stunted, frozen. Middle English “knurre.”
 oporologist (n.): A fruit seller. Greek ὀπώρα meaning “late summer, fruit time” + πώλης meaning “seller.”
One of the things we like to promote as the Speech Dudes is that the skills and knowledge that Speech Pathologists/Therapists learn can be put to use outside the field of Speech Pathology in general. To our way of thinking, that serves to encourage the rest of the world to recognize that SLPs are not just “twin-set and pearls” ladies who help people “speak correctly” but also talented individuals whose years of training and experience can be used to comment on and critique the broader topic of “human communication.”
Which brings me to the following sign and the Case of the Unauthorized U-turn.
As my wife and I were heading for dinner at a local brew pub, she noticed a car making a U-turn on a divided highway at a gap where this sign was present. “Oh,” she said, “Look at that. He’s not allowed to make a turn there.” At this point, the SLP in me kicked into gear.
“Well,” I replied, “that’s not necessarily true because the sign is lexically ambiguous.” Before you worry too much, we’ve been married for close on 35 years so she’s completely unsurprised when I use phrases like “lexically ambiguous” in a casual conversation. So when she asked “What do you mean,” it wasn’t for a definition of lexical ambiguity but for an explanation of the nature of the ambiguity.
I think the intent of the sign is to use the phrase “emergency and authorized” as an adjectival pre-modifier for vehicles with the and working simply as a coordinating conjunction along the lines of:
The adverbial element of only doesn’t really help because whether you choose the single- or two-sentence interpretation makes no difference. That’s why I have conveniently left it out of the analysis .
What makes it more ambiguous is that there is, in fact, an implied rather than actual subject to the sign, along the lines of “This gap in the road can be used for…” and so both the following interpretations would be fair game:
“This gap in the road can be used for an emergency” and;
“This gap can be used for authorized vehicles.”
In the event that the offender was stopped by the police, I would think that a smart lawyer could argue that is he/she was making a U-turn because there was a definable emergency (“I just got a call from my wife telling me she thought someone was skulking around in the yard”) and if that is true, then it was a legitimate maneuver.
The fundamental ambiguity stems from the fact that the word emergency can used both as a noun and an adjective but authorized can only be an adjective or a verb. So you can have both “an emergency situation” and “an authorized situation” but although you can have “I had an emergency” you can’t have *”I had an authorized.” On the other hand, you can have “The vehicle was authorized” but not *”The vehicle was emergency.”
Of course, one option is simply to use the following sign instead:
You’re welcome, Ohio Department of Transportation.
 I know I’m running a little fast and loose with the term sentence here but hopefully you understand the basic idea. For the purpose of the article, I’m adopting the fairly liberal definition of a sentence as “a group of words that express a single idea.”
 One of the challenges – for me – with a blog post is that for every sentence I write or word I use, I feel like I could write a separate paragraph on each. This is especially true when I make a statement that I think someone might want me to support by evidence. That’s not, in of itself, a bad thing because as a Speech Therapist I would want to be able to use a evidence-based approach to my practice. But the danger is that you get stuck in the infinite regression of “prove it” for everything you say. In fact, in the world of politics. that’s an actual tool you can use to prolong discussions to the point that nothing gets done. So you can say things like, “Despite what people believe, the average US citizen is 407,000 times more likely to be killed in a car accident than at the hands of a terrorist; or 6 times more likely to be killed by a shark” to which a supporter of travel bans from predominantly Muslim countries will respond, “And where did you get those figures?” So if you then say, “The National Safety Council and the National Center for Health Statistics report for 2013,” the next response is “How did they arrive at those numbers?” At this point, you begin to see where this is going and with each supporting statement and new “appeal to your sources” will be made. If you keep this up long enough, nothing changes.
If I haven’t mentioned it before, the reason I left the UK and moved to the US some 22 years ago was to take over the lead in the long-term development of the Unity® vocabulary program that is available on all Prentke Romich Company (PRC) devices. We actually started working on the Unity system in 1993, and at that time I would visit the US every two months for a one-week period. When the offer to take over the running of the project came up in 1995, my wife and I decided to sell up, ship out, and join the ranks of the “Ex-Pat” communities of English folks scattered across the world.
22 years later, after several iterations of devices and software, PRC have now released what’s called Unity 2.0, a newer version of the original that beefs up on the number of vocabulary items that are pre-stored and adds a slew of new icons, which should appeal to those folks who think that “more is better” when it comes to pictures. I’m not actually of that school, and at some point I’ll put together a few blog posts to explain why. As I’m no longer the head of the Unity project (I have other fascinating projects to work on) and so my role in the current iteration has been more consultative than directive. But what I can do in my spare time is create materials to support the teaching of the system.
In my previous post, I mentioned the recently released Unidad® Spanish bilingual program and provided a link to a set of free resources for using it along with Carole Zangari’s popular A Year of Core Vocabulary Words program. I’m now adding the same resources for the 60-, 84-, and 144-key versions of Unity 2.0. They are stored as zip files at the Speech Dudes’ Box account and here’s what each packet contains:
A Year of Core Words Unity 60/84/144: A PDF manual with each page containing a different month and the icon sequences used for the words to be taught.
Cheat Sheets folder: A set of 12 documents that simply list alphabetically the words and icons on a month-by-month basis.
Word Lists folder: A set of 12 text files that can be imported into a PRC device for use with the Vocabulary Builder feature. Once you’ve imported the lists, just (a) choose list of the month and (b) turn ON the Vocabulary Builder and all you’ll see are your target words.
Read Me First: A single-page document with information about the packet.
For those of you familiar with the PRC device feature called embellished icons , the resources have been created to be used with embellished icons turned OFF. The biggest advantage of this is that there are fewer actual icons to learn than you would with the feature turned ON, and as a “less is better” proponent, I’d recommend you teach the core vocabulary in that way. Should anyone be inclined to create a set where embellished icons are turned on, let me know and I’ll add those to our Box account.
Feel free to share these materials with other folks using Unity and as before, all we ask is that you occasionally mention the Dudes 😉
 This is a feature unique to PRC devices where you can choose to have two different sets of icons available to you. Turning embellished icons off gives you a smaller icons set than having embellished icons on. If you want some numbers, you have to learn 87 different pictures to be able to use the 144 words in A Year of Core Vocabulary if embellished icons are off; if you turn them on, you have 178 different pictures to learn. Your choice.
Way back on the 8th January, 2013 – a date I remember because it’s my birthday, along with Stephen Hawking and Kim Jong-un, and the late David Bowie and Elvis – Carole Zangari from the College of Health Care Sciences at Nova Southeastern University in Florida posted her influential and very prAACtical “A Year of Core Vocabulary Words.” Clipped directly from the site itself;
…we created 12 grids of core vocabulary words – one for each month of the year. Each grid has 12 cells labeled with core words. Plug in the AAC symbols that your client uses (e.g., PCS, SymbolStix, Unity, Pixons, etc), print, laminate, and keep them handy.
One of the great things about the “Year for Core” is that it’s a gift that keeps on giving! You can start using it at anytime you like and over a span of 12 months you can teach 144 really useful words regardless of the medium you use. As the author of Unity® 84, I wanted to make sure people who were using Carole’s vocabulary had some supports available, so I created a set of Cheat Sheets, text files that could be imported in a PRC device to use with Vocabulary Builder, and a single document in the “page-per-month” style Carole had original developed with all the symbols, as she suggested, already “plugged in.”
Now here we are in April 2017 and PRC has launched a new Spanish bilingual program called Unidad® in both 36- and 84-key versions. For folks who want to follow the “Year of Core Words” approach, I’ve put together a new set of support materials that you can download and print out. Here’s what the pack includes:
A Year of Core Words Unidad English 36/84: A PDF manual with each page containing a different month and the icon sequences used for the words to be taught.
Smart Charts folder: A set of 12 documents that simply list alphabetically the words and icons on a month-by-month basis.
Word Lists folder: A set of 12 text files that can be imported into a PRC device for use with the Vocabulary Builder feature. Once you’ve imported the lists, just (a) choose list of the month and (b) turn ON the Vocabulary Builder and all you’ll see are your target words.
The 36-location version might seem simpler/easier (36 is less that 48, yes?) but I recommend that unless there are physical or visual reasons against it, always go for the 84. In fact, always go for the most keys you can in general.It might seem counter-intuitive but more keys can be easier than less. It’s just basic mathematics. If I have a vocabulary of 500 words and a keyboard of 8 buttons, then I can only have 7 single-hit words represented before having to use the 8th key to go to another page, and that means the next set of words are 2-hits. To encode 500 words you’re going to have to use sequences of up to 4 buttons, and as the vocabulary increases, so will the sequences. With 84 buttons, you can get over 700 words without having to press more than 2-keys per word. Hence, more keys is more efficient.
It’s not unusual for me to get an email from someone asking things like, “Do you have any references that support the idea that using AAC will stop a child from talking?” or “Can you point me to some articles that provide information on Core vocabulary?” As a member of the “Not Dead Yet” club of AAC practitioners , over the years I’ve collected a few useful papers that I can refer to, and continue to collect new ones whenever I can force myself to do some journal reading.
So to make life easier, I’ve created a suite of PDF files is a series I call “Articles and Abstracts,” with each file providing a selection of articles along with the abstracts. I can’t provide the actual articles without having to get lots and lots of permissions, and frankly I don’t have the time for that, but given the citations and the abstracts, folks can at least decide if they want to go track them down – and sometimes a starting point is really useful.
I’ve broken the series down into the following topic areas:
Articles and Abstracts for research on Vocabulary.
There’s no magic formula to explain why I chose this grouping, just that they are areas of research that impinge on the field of AAC and language. And I don’t claim to have anything close to a comprehensive listing of articles, just some key ones that are, in my opinion, useful and relevant. If anyone has any suggestions for additional papers, just let me know – I can’t read every journal that’s out there!
I update on an irregular basis, by which I mean that if a new article that I find interesting comes my way, I’ll update the particular file there and then. So I already some 2017 papers cited – and you can have the excitement of finding out which they are when you download the series 🙂
From our blog home page, select the FREEBIES menu and then down to Article and Abstracts for the list. Or just use the bulleted list above. Feel free to share the information – it’s all publicly available in peer-reviewed journals – but we’d be grateful if you’d mention the Speech Dudes as your source now and again.
 In a field where the turnover of practitioners is relatively high, one of the easiest ways to become known is simply to avoid dying. If you can also add “getting around a bit,” then your stock can rise without you having to do much more than that! Of course, if you want to reach the level of AAC Superstar or AAC Luminary, you do, in truth, have to put a little more work into it than I have, and the Superstars and Luminaries deserve their status. All I’m sharing is that even if you don’t aspire to professional sainthood, staying alive is a really, really good idea 😉 And as Woody Allen once said, “I don’t want to be immortal through my work; I want to be immortal through not dying.”
This just in from our Northeast Ohio correspondent: The Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team has become the 2016 NBA World Champions for the first time in the history of the franchise. Perhaps the enormity of this can only really be appreciated if you are geographically, socially, and culturally linked to the city of Cleveland and its surrounding towns and cities within a 100-mile radius. Or if you are a Cleveland “ex-pat” living somewhere else.
I’ve never really considered myself in any sense a “sports fan” in the same way that an overweight balding guy who paints himself in sickly orange and brown will stand in the snow at the Cleveland Browns stadium singing “Who Let the Dogs Out” while watching a bunch of overpaid amateurs lose on a regular basis, and will do the same thing week after week, year after year, yet continue paying ridiculous prices to be beaten by the same stick over and over and over again. No sir, that’s not me.
Nor do I have a small shrine in a room of my house that’s bedazzled with trophies of my high school sporting achievements from many years ago, interspersed with memorabilia and posters of half-remembered super-humans and demigods who performed some near Odyssean feats of wonder with a ball, a stick, or just their bare hands. No, my friends, that’s not me.
But last night as the buzzer went and the ball continued to fly, I found myself standing up and cheering in my living room. Yes, my own damned living room! Not even a sports bar or a stadium but the room where I usually spend time watching too much TV, too many movies, or writing too many free blog posts. My traditionally British stiff upper lip flopped around like a fish on a deck and there was a visceral and palpable surge of emotion that took over.
I’ve had several experiences over the past 20-something years that have reinforced the notion that at some level I have – as the English might say – “gone native.” Last night was a new one. I was only 7-years-old when England won the soccer World Cup in 1966, and too young and disinterested to grasp what it must have felt like to people at the time . It’s taken 50 years and another country to work it out. For a short time last night, “Ich war ein Clevelander.” For a brief period I felt part of a much larger community on an emotional level that I don’t often feel. Somehow the actions of a group of five guys tossing a ball into a hoop was about me and not them. Rationally, it really IS just five guys tossing a ball into a hoop, and I’m just an inert and passive spectator to the success of someone else. Yet emotionally, it’s very, very different.
Putting our hopes, dreams, faith, and trust in other people isn’t a new thing. In a few days time, they’ll be taking down the famous banner of LeBron James that’s hanging on a building directly opposite the basketball stadium to prepare for the coming of the RNC – the Republican National Convention. In less than a month, triumph will give way to Trump as politicians, pundits, and pressure groups will flood the city for front-row seats to the next gladiatorial spectacle in Cleveland. Simultaneously, around the country, millions of Trump supporters will be putting their hopes, dreams, faith, and trust in a man who makes them feel like I did last night.
Yesterday afternoon, I was out with my wife, daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren on their boat, cruising a local lake and quaffing cold beer in the heat of the Ohio sun. As we snacked on spicy wings and thick cheesy pizza – the perfect companions to ale – Ben told me he was thinking of buying an AR-15 semi-automatic simply because recent calls for banning such weapons is “against his right to bear arms” and “unconstitutional,” and that owning one is his right as an army Vet and American .
I have a different view. But after last night’s brief and powerful surge of emotion about something as trivial as a basketball game, I guess I can comprehend what he might feel. He’s simply a reflection of a viewpoint that is special to America – the Gun Culture. And amongst my “going native” moments is the one from maybe ten years or so ago when I decided that I wasn’t against gun ownership and that the way to tackle the issue at a pragmatic level was stricter gun control. Me. The kid from Lancashire. Pro-gun?
Actually, I’m no more “pro-gun” than I am “pro-abortion.” Labels such as “pro-” and “anti-” are often used to falsely polarize arguments into tidy “black-or-white” or “right-or-wrong” dichotomies that simply don’t exist. Anyone who uses phrases such as “you’re either for X or against X” is merely demonstrating that their level of political discourse is so shallow that you couldn’t even float an argument let alone push it. But then again, the folks using such rhetoric are frequently not appealing to any notion of Reason but firmly attached to Emotion.
Which brings me back to the thrilling finale to the 2016 basketball season and my new-found but probably temporary feeling of civic pride. I’m glad the Cavaliers won. I’m happy Cleveland has its first major league sports championship since 1964. I’m excited that Northeast Ohioan’s can celebrate a social singularity for at least a week. I’m thrilled to be wearing my brand new championship hat. And on this first day of what might be a long, hot summer, I’m just a little disheartened that I’ve been reminded how easy it is for rationality to be overcome by emotion. Ad mores natura recurrit damnatos, fixa et mutari nescia – Human nature ever reverts to its depraved courses, fixed and immutable.
 The phrase “go native” is first noted in Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, where we find the sentence “Kim did not sweep the board with his reminiscences; for St. Xavier’s looks down on boys who ‘go native altogether.'” A remnant of Britain’s colonial days, “going native” was seen as a bad thing and part of a slide to becoming “un-English.” The peril of “going native” was such a problem that British Foreign Office diplomats were rarely allowed to spend more than five years in a post. Its early pejorative sense is less so nowadays and tends simply to refer to the way on which ex-pats take up the habits of their new country of residence without thinking about it.
 Oddly what I do remember is that I was into stamp collecting, and when the Royal Mail issued a special commemorative 4d (four pennies) stamp, my mum took me to the Post Office to buy one, which I proudly added to my album. Sadly I have no recollection of what I did with my old stamp albums and no longer have it. So much of our lives disappears as if it had never happened. Sigh!
 My son-in-law Ben is a great guy and perfect for my somewhat “spirited” older daughter. She (and we) had a somewhat troubled teenage period but he’s been able to calm her down to the point where she’s not the girl she was – and that’s good. He’s a hard-workin’, family-lovin’, country music singin’ kind o’ redneck who brings me pieces of dead deer and slaughtered ducks when hunting season in on. When we spent many hours putting together a wooden train-set for his son one Christmas, he was the one who went out and bought a growler of beer so “the men” could get the job done. Coincidentally, two years later he got his current job with CSX Transportation, a railroad company that presumably deemed our night of construction as perfect experience for the post! His politics lean ever-so-heavily to the right and the only reason he hasn’t got a Donald Trump sticker on his truck is because he’d have to take his “2nd amendment” gun sticker off. But here’s the thing; at the family level, we all still muddle along despite our differences. In fact, his attitude towards gays has softened since he married my daughter and then realized that he now had a lesbian sister-in-law in the form of my younger child! It’s comforting to know that once he was actually able to spend time with her and realize she had one head, two legs, and didn’t eat babies, his tolerance has improved. Now I admit, he’s unlikely to be taking part in the next Cleveland Gay Pride march nor add a rainbow sticker to the back of his Ford F-150 but it’s a start!
Be warned! If you’re not interested in language – and I suppose that’s possible – then this article will strike you as something of a “train spotter” post. By that, I mean that like train spotting, it focuses on some incredibly fine details about just one thing, but if you’re not curious about that one thing, you’ll feel like you’re talking to a train spotter, complete with notebook and anorak .
This all came about with a seemingly simple question regarding how to represent simple phrases in an augmentative and alternative communication device . More specifically, it was about phrases using pronouns (I, you, he, she, it, we, they) and the verb to have. And the specific example was about whether the question form of “you have” is “have you?” or “do you have?” It seems a simple enough question but there’s a grammatical demon lurking in the wings, waiting to stab someone with a pitchfork!
Suppose you’re out without a watch or a smart phone and you want to know the time. What would you say to someone?
(a) Excuse me, do you have the time?
(b) Excuse me, have you the time?
Pragmatically, either would work, and one suggestion I heard was that the former is more typical of American English and the latter of British English. Well, intuition is a marvelous thing but a poor substitute for empirical data! This sounded like a job for corpus linguistics – the science of huge language samples.
Using my favorite free online resource, the BYU Corpora site, I checked the incidence of the phrase “do you have the time?” against “have you the time?” in the Corpus of Contemporary American English. Here’s what I found:
“Do you have the time?”: 10 occurrences
“Have you the time?” : 0 occurrences
So in American English, the “do you have” construction seems to be the clear winner. But then I needed to look at the same phrases using the British National Corpus, and here’s how that looked:
“Do you have the time?”: 1 example
“Have you the time?”: 3 examples
Well, hardly conclusive, but you could probably make a case that the “have you” construction is three times more likely to be used than the “do you have” and so the hypothesis that it’s a US versus UK difference isn’t necessarily wrong. So maybe it would be OK to have the question form “do you have” stored on American English communication aids but “have you” on British English – a sort of “separated by a common language” sort of thing.
So the general rule here would be as follows:
A. Statement form = PRONOUN + <to have>
B. Question form = <to have> + PRONOUN
There’s a beautiful symmetry and simplicity to this. “You have” becomes “have you,” “he has” becomes “has he,” “we have” becomes “have we” and so on.
But wait, wait… there’s more!
The verb to have has two roles it can play in language. The first is demonstrated by the example just given where it is used as a lexical verb synonymously with to own or to possess. The sentences”Do you have a pen I could borrow?” or “Have you a pen I could borrow?” are both OK, and that inserted do is a standard feature of both American and British English. In fact, it’s pretty much obligatory for all lexical verbs . I can say, “You like monkeys” but have to ask “Do you like monkeys?” because “*Like you monkeys” just sounds so wrong.
The second, and more common, use of to have is as an auxiliary or helping verb. That means it is found alongside another verb and “helps” it in some way. For example, I can say “You have finished” where the have “helps” the verb to finish, but if I want to use the question form, I have to say “Have you finished?” Notice that “*Do you have finished?” makes no sense, and when used as an auxiliary, you don’t use the do. So you would find things like “Have you finished your soup?” and not “*Do you have finished your soup?” or “Have you washed the car?” and not “*Do you have washed the car?”
The difference in use between the lexical and auxiliary aspects of to have is why if you are going to store the question form of the [PRONOUN + <to have>] phrase as a single unit, you are better to have [<to have> + PRONOUN] with [<do>] as a separate lexical item. You then don’t have to have TWO question forms that depend on which aspect of the verb you are using .
Now you can take you anorak off.
 The word anorak is noted in the Oxford English Dictionary as one of the few words to come into English from Inuit. The Inuit language has a number of variations, from which we get other words such as igloo, kayak, and inukshuk (a stack of stones designed to look like a human figure, more familiar to our Canadian readers and Rush fans who have copies of the 1996 album “Test for Echo”).
 It’s called “do-insertion” or “do-support” and bizarrely makes absolutely no contribution to the sentence! If you miss it out, it might sound weird but it doesn’t change the meaning of the utterance. German manages to get along quite well without it and “Magst du Affen?” translates as “Like you monkeys?” and in French “Vous aimez les singes” becomes the questions “Aimez-vous les singes?” with ne’er a do or a faire in sight! There are a number of theories out there about why (and when) this funky do appeared but that’s best left for another time.
 For those of you familiar with Prentke Romich devices and the Unity® language software, we pre-store phrases using sequences of picture, such as PICTURE A + PICTURE B = “you have” and then PICTURE B + PICTURE A = “have you.” Because we have the same pictures used in two directions, it’s actually easy to teach that if you want to make a statement, use A + B, but if you want the question form, just reverse it for B + A. That regular rule then works all through the system and it automatically handles that tricky little do-insertion for lexical verbs. If you’re not familiar, click on the link below to see a short video:
It’s Shrove Tuesday – or “Pancake Day” as we used to call it back in Lancashire – and as people across the country skip their diets in favor of eating fat flat crepes overflowing with carbohydrates and lipids, I thought I’d offer some non-fattening intellectual sustenance regarding the origins of the phrase itself.
As you might guess, the reason there’s a specified day is because it’s just one of three days that make up something called Shrovetide, a period running from Quinquagesima Sunday  through Shrove Monday and Shrove Tuesday up until Ash Wednesday.
The word shrove comes from the Old English scrifan meaning “to impose penance upon” or “to hear a confession.” It includes the notion of “making things right” as a result of self-examination and recognizing one’s sins. Shrovetide is the beginning of the period known to Christians as Lent, which includes the requirement to undertake some sort of fast or privation  as a run up to the celebration of Easter Sunday. Hence the relationship to a penance during this time. This in turn is thought to derive from the Latin scribere meaning “to write.”
The practice of making pancakes seems to have originated in the need to use up all the rich foods such as milk, butter, cream etc. prior to observance of weeks of fasting for Lent. Hence the other name of “Fat Tuesday” and “Mardi Gras” .
Another old custom was the gift of the “Shrovetide hen,” which is mentioned in Bishop Hall’s 16th century work Virgidemiarum where he says, “A Shroftide Hen, Which bought to giue, he takes to sell agen.” Sadly most of these hens ended up on a table and not as a re-gift!
But consider the male of the species and the fate of the “Shrovetide Cock.” This hapless clucker was taken out on Shrove Tuesday and beaten with sticks or hit with stones until it was dead. The “winner” was the person who actually killed it. Sure, both males and females ultimately provided supper but the manner of the cock’s demise seems a little harsh.
So enjoy your Mardi Gras celebrations. Eat, drink, and be merry. And offer at least one toast to the poor Shrovetide Cock.
 Quinquagesima is Latin for “fiftieth day” and marks the Sunday that’s 50 days before Easter Sunday, and derives from quinquaginta meaning “fifty.” Breaking this down just a little more, quinque means “five” and the suffix ginta is used to mark cardinal numbers between thirty and ninety. Cunning folks these Latins.
 My wife is a theist and attends a local Episcopalian church where the vicar has asked her parishioners to consider giving up plastic for Lent. My wife is OK with the idea of avoiding packing all her shopping at the supermarket into free plastics bags but is undergoing a severe moral dilemma as regards her daily Starbucks, which has a plastic lid! I suppose she can ask for her drive-through drink to be served without the lid but that’s a potential law suit I’m guessing Howard Schultz is keen to avoid.
 For those of us who remember our schoolboy French, Mardi is the French word for “Tuesday” and gras is the word for “fat.” And yes, the French gras and the English grease both come from the same source; the Latin crassus.
Over the past few months, I’ve been trying to think hard about the issue of men in the field of Speech-Language Pathology. My biggest hurdle has always been whether or not this is, in fact, an “issue” at all. It may well be an observable and measurable phenomenon but that doesn’t necessarily qualify as an “issue.” By that, I mean does it really matter that the balance of men to women in the field is significantly skewed?
At the 2015 ASHA Convention in Denver, I attended a session entitled “SLTs in Europe – ‘United in Diversity’ – the Challenge of Promoting the Profession” presented by Michele Kaufmann-Meyer and Baiba Trinite  of the Comité Permanent de Liaison des Orthophonistes-Logopèdes de l’UE or CPLOL. At the beginning of the session, they brought up a slide highlighting the following three points:
Diversity is challenging
Diversity is welcome
Diversity makes us grow
But the definition of “diversity” was one that focused on cultural, educational, linguistic, and ethnic differences and not gender. At the end of the presentation, I pointed out that when I qualified as a Speech and Language Therapist in the UK back in 1983, the data suggested that about 2% of the professions was male, and that 32 years later, the figures say that at best it’s close to 5%, which is as close to “no change” as makes no difference. So I asked the question that if “diversity” is challenging, welcome, and makes us grow, what was CPLOL actively doing to encourage gender diversity, the answer of “nothing” was oddly unsurprising. If it’s not seen as an “issue,” or so low on the “issue” totem pole that no-one cares, then why would we expect any change?
In fairness to CPLOL, they have two working groups on Education and Clinical Practice that are tasked with the following list of topics:
All of these are virtuous and worthy, and given that CPLOL is funded by subscriptions from its member organization, and any donations, the organization is not exactly awash with money, so one can understand the need to create priorities. Gender imbalance is clearly not a priority, although I should in all fairness add that Michèle gave me her business card and an open invitation to engage in some dialog, so that proverbial ball is now in my court.
Everyone talks about the weather…
To paraphrase a quote attributed to Mark Twain, “Everyone talks about men in the profession but nobody does anything about it.” That may be a little unfair because there have been sporadic events to try to increase the number of guys becoming SLP/SLTs but if the outcome over 30 years has been at best a 3% increase, whatever has been done has been minimally effective. This isn’t a criticism of individuals or organizations but a simple statement of an observable fact. My guess is that there’s been a bigger percentage increase of male strippers in the past 30 years – another field of endeavor that’s noticeably female.
Social media has offered opportunities for men to promote themselves via such things as the #speechguys hashtag and @speechguys Twitter handle, or the “League of Extraordinary Speech Gentlemen” on Facebook but these are all marked by low numbers. @speechguys currently has 328 followers and the “League” – admittedly a closed group – has 236. Compared with @Sockamillion the cat, a feline with 1.2 million followers, there’s a way to go before men in Speech Pathology make a splash on the internet.
So what’s to be done? Anything? Nothing?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a polemic as “a strong verbal or written attack on a person, opinion,” which is what this article is about to become. Let’s assume that there IS a need to have more men in the profession, and that there ARE benefits to this. If that’s the case, then I’m no longer interested in re-hashing the numbers; I’m not interested in interminable and repetitive discussion about why men don’t become SLPs; and I don’t want special treatment for men just because they are men. What I want is for some commitment from the Profession as a whole to do something that has the following THREE critical components:
A written Plan of Action with measurable results. There’s a time for “raising awareness” and a time for “making a change” and after 30 years I suggest that awareness raising has had its chance. What we need is a list of goals that are defined in ways that can be measured so we can determine success or failure. Saying “we want more men in the profession” is not a goal; it’s an aspiration. Saying “we want to see the global proportion of males in the profession to be 7% by 2018, based on figures collected by at least six national SLP organizations all using the same metrics” is a goal . And on December 31st, 2018, we can actually see whether we’ve achieved it or failed.
Resources. Informal clusters of men trying to co-ordinate “stuff” on the internet in their spare time are not “resources.” They are simply informal clusters of men. Like all of us, they have clients to see, families to care for, homes to maintain, and the usual list of “things to do” that get in the way of fighting for a cause. Resources are time, people, and money – and the latter is the key. Unless a fixed amount of money is allocated to a project, there’s no way to budget for the time and people. The international professional organizations already allocate money to other projects and there’s no reason why “getting more men into the profession” cannot be one of those.
Rebel with a Cause. Over the past ten years of so, the term “champion” has become part of the business vernacular to describe a person who is identified as the prime mover of a project, cause, or product. If we are to have our own “Rebel with a Cause,” this champion has to have a budget, the power to hire and fire, and a position within the administrative structure of a national organization. This person needs to be passionate, articulate, engaging, and unfazed by the prospect of being in the limelight. And he needs to be comfortable with being a role model for other men.
Unless the Profession can commit to these three elements, I’m predicting that in another 30 years, just before I reach my 90th birthday, we’ll still be looking at the numbers and wondering why we’re only up to 7% of SLPs being men.
For what it’s worth, I am not that Rebel. I’m too old, too short, and have all the “media appeal” of Jabba the Hutt without his make-up. I want to see a media-savvy champion who can be in Washington DC in the morning and attending a meeting in San Diego that same evening. I want to see someone who can deliver a Skype conference at 8:00 AM Eastern Standard Time and do it again at 9:00 AM Australian Eastern Standard Time. I want to see someone who can churn out press releases and articles on why men should be SLPs. In short, someone who treats this as a job and not a spare-time exercise.
It’s time to “put up or shut up.” I’m up for taking part but this isn’t a one-man show. It’s not even a 328 men show. It’s a challenge to the profession as a whole to find a Rebel with a Cause as opposed to our current Cause without a Rebel.
In a discussion I cited this blog post as a source that suggests that in the area of gender balance, male strippers are more represented in the field of disrobing than male SLPs are in Speech Pathology. When I checked, to my horror I noticed I didn’t refer to any source to support that claim. Mea culpa. So I asked Dr. Google and went to payscale.com, a site that provides information about jobs, and “Stripper/Exotic Dancer” is listed. It includes the statistic that of all the respondents to a survey, 16% identified as male – way higher than that of SLPs.
I also discovered that if you want to make money, your best chance is to find a job in Las Vegas, Miami, or New York, and if you want to really have a sucky time, Atlanta isn’t the place to be. And if you are really lucky, 18% get Medical benefits, 14% get Dental, and 13% get Vision.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2010, Highlights and Trends: ASHA Counts for Year End 2010 (available at: http://www.asha.org uploadedFiles/2010-Member-Counts.pdf).
Litosseliti, L., & Leadbeater, C. (2013). Speech and language therapy/pathology: perspectives on a gendered profession. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 48(1), 90-101
McKinson, F. (2007). Why do men become speech and language therapists? RCSLT Bulletin, April, 12–14.
 Michèle Kaufmann-Meyer is the current President of CPLOL and has been representing Switzerland since 2004. She has also been working as a general secretary of the French-speaking Swiss organization for 12 years. Baiba Trinite is Assistant Professor in the Department of Education and Social Work at Liepaja University and President of Speech Therapists’ Association of Latvia.
 I’m sure each of the international organizations has ways of measuring the male/female ratio of their membership already in place. What I don’t know is whether they are all using similar methodologies and how reliable the metrics are. Clearly one of the first tasks to be included in the Plan of Action is to reviewing current measurement systems and make sure they are as accurate as possible.
This is now the FIFTH in this series of videos. My oh my, how time flies! Condensing a year of news from across the world into 24 stories is something of a challenge and inevitably misses out the majority of things that have happened. Nevertheless, take it as a snapshot of 2015 and perhaps in five more years when we hit our 10th review it’ll be enough to bring back memories.
As always, you can also download the soundtrack as an MP3 to add to your music player of choice, and there’s also the six-minutes extended “Funked Up Dude” mix available. You can simply click below for the downloads: