thus spoke zaraIn a business course I took recently, our septuagenarian professor decided to give us a take home exam.  He probably got more than he bargained for, because afterwards there was a queue of students in front of his office inquiring about their grades.  I didn’t get the grade I’d hoped for, but what really irked me was that he accused me of using words and phrases that I didn’t understand (“not your words” he said), which according to him I had plagiarized from some website.  I was carrying a copy of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra and showed it to him.  According to Nietzsche, Zarathustra is  ”6000 feet beyond man and time” and completely went over the head of the professor, of course.

In response to his clueless accusation, I wrote a couple of pages explaining to the good professor the words that he didn’t understand.  Especially interesting was the word ”metaphor”, which was Greek to him (No metaphor intended.  It is actually Greek.) 

Explanation of Difficult Words

1.  “In a sense, there is a constant dialectic between proactive and reactive strategies, in an on-going process of strategy setting, which is in reality a work-in-progress and not a fixed edifice.”

Edifice:  a large, imposing, or impressive building or structure.  By extension, a complex and elaborate conceptual framework or structure. 

I mean that a company strategy is not a fixed and unalterable framework, but should react and adapt to unforeseen circumstances.

2.  “The importance of benchmarking lies in that it allows an organization to learn from the past experience of other successful organizations, and, metaphorically, to avoid having to ‘reinvent the wheel.’

Metaphor:  a phrase in which an expression is used to refer to something that it does not literally mean in order to suggest a similarity.  Derived from Greek metaphorá.   Examples:

  • “Love is a rose,” meaning:  love is beautiful.
  • “His words are knives,”  meaning:  his words are hurtful.
  • “Life is a day,”  meaning:  life is short.

I mean by this metaphor that benchmarking prevents having to rediscover a good procedure, thus avoiding having to “reinvent the wheel” when the wheel actually exists.

3.  “Exceptionalism is the exception.”

This phrase is derived from a 1996 article on best practice benchmarking in Xerox.  The article is attached.

It means:  there are usually no special cases or exceptions, as far as best practice is concerned.  What works well in one company is likely to work in another.

4.  Implicit Knowledge

Implicit:  implied but not directly expressed, hidden, unclear.  The opposite word is explicit.

Implicit knowledge in a business context is information and knowledge used in a company but directly and clearly expressed or written down, in a manual of procedure book for example.

5.  “A low-cost strategy means that a company should offer meaningful lower cost, with features that customers want, in a way which is inimitable.

Inimitable:  that which can not be easily imitated or copied. 

I mean that what the services or products that the company offers should be difficult to copy.

3 Responses to Explaining difficult words to my professor

  1. I love words and how each has its own distinctive tinct shade, synonyms they may look like. English owes its richness to the abundance of synonyms borrowed from many languages while the English throughout their modern history met with many different ethnic peoples.

    12 Oct. 09

  2. admin says:

    I agree. Thanks for the comment, Abu Ali.

  3. Amanto says:

    I have had many cases in which my supervisor has accused me of using wrong words sometimes, like “chucked immensely”, “miscellaneous affairs”, “concatenated” . It is natural in the academic arena when a teacher falls short of a subject, s/he accuses the student to acquit himself. There are even occasions when they reject giant literary writers as using bad English when they are proved to be wrong themselves based on the texts of the great writers.