3.9 SQ Podcast Episode 8 – What’s that word?

January 22, 2010

 Podcast Feed     

Although slightly unusual for a science/math/quilting blog and podcast, I want to focus on vocabulary.      

Screen Capture from http://www.wordle.net

Occurences with complex vocabulary in technical disciplines    

What is it about all this scientific and mathematical vocabulary, notation, jargon, acronyms?  Is it there to make us smarter and understand more or is it there just to confuse us?  The following are some scientific examples of extreme vocabulary (look at your own risk)    

In math you have all the integral signs and the large sigma and the n-notation everywhere.      

In physics, essentially you learn the greek alphabet, math, equations everywhere!      

Chemistry is no better, with all the organic chemistry notation.  For example one diastereomer is trans-3-methylcyclopentanol (I have no idea what that is used for, but it looks complicated, right?)  The other enantiomer is cis-3-methlycyclopentanol in case you’re wondering.    

Biology for me was hard due to endless lists of vocabulary.  Just opening one page in my book gives me: squamous cells, cuboidal cells, simple epithelium, stratified epi…… (okay I’ll stop here!)    

With terms like this, its easy to stop in your tracks and run the other way.  Sure.  Go ahead.  See ya next podcast and post if you follow suit. But for a vocabulary adventure, keep reading.     


Eschew Obfuscation in the English Language and what to do about vocabulary intimidation     

But you don’t encounter intimidating vocabulary only in the science classroom.  Or in any classroom.  There are things all around us that cause us to feel intimidated just by saying them out loud.     

The English language being one of the great intimidators.   The existence of the word irregardless.  Spelling bee words.  A new (to me) phrase brought to my attention by one of my commenters:  Eschew Obfuscation    

After doing a little bit of research, I found out that “eschew obfuscation” means “avoid confusion“.    

Sometimes intimidating vocabulary can be used (like I did with the science words) to intimidate you.  Or as Timelady says: “sometimes (people) genuinely do not realise that it is unreasonable to expect others to understand such words – perhaps they are (using) technical jargon, abbreviations, acronyms”. 

Do I feel that a lot of people in my life do this on a regular basis? – NO.     

Do I feel that quilters have such a crazy complicated vocabulary such that they cannot express their meaning to me in a way I can’t understand? – Also NO.    

If someone does intimidate you verbally, Timelady says to counter with something to the effect of: “oh I don’t know what that word means.  Could you tell me?  Thanks for increasing my language skills”.     

To avoid confusion when writing, an Eschew Obfuscation website suggests to   

  • write simply
  • write concisely
  • assume the reader is naive
  • use the active voice
  • present tense
  • positive language
  • common language
  • avoid acronyms
  • organize thoughts sequentially and logically

(a few of these I have to work on myself.)    


Possible confusing vocabulary in our hobbies    

With hobbies of any kind, science fiction, fishing, quilting … etc. there is usually a learning curve to understanding the hobby.    

  • Learning product and equipment names can seem confusing to use.  Materials used in creating a project have their own names, brands, and acronyms. 
  • Other times it is a specific technique that is being demonstrated, and a skill that has to be learned. 
  • Sometimes abstract concepts are best described with a certain word or phrase like “color value”, gradation, contrast.  Some of these techniques are simple in idea, but also complicated such that it takes a lifetime to master.
  • Space saving when communicating is facilitating our use of acronyms and symbols.  Text messaging, tweeting, and constant communication is shortening our words and ideas to “WIPS” “UFO’s” “HSY” (haven’t started yet – heard by me first on Annie Smith’s Quilting Stash). 
  • Referring to loved ones as DH, DD, MIL, …. is necessary sometimes to protect privacy. 

The reason I haven’t pursued crochet and knitting is the pattern and symbol notations used in patterns as space savers.  I see the pattern notation, don’t take time to analyze it, and put the project down, never to start on it.  I COULD figure it out if I had the desire to learn, but for now I’ll just do quilting with its visual blocks.     


The above picture is a Screen capture from http://www.wordle.net  


Strategies for overcoming intimidating vocabularies  

Once past the apathy, here are specific strategies for increasing vocabulary (in quilting or other):  

  • Dictionaries, lots of dictionaries. Ruthann has dictionaries everywhere. Christine has dictionaries at work and at home. I use www.m-w.com or www.dictionary.com or www.wikipedia.com to learn about things I don’t understand.
  • iPhones (with access to dictionary.com) and Kindles have places to look up vocabulary too, so you don’t have to carry around a large dictionary everywhere you go.
  • Listen to Podcasts, listening to complicated words spoken several times gets you familiar to the words and ideas.  This makes it easier when you actually do the technique or use the product.
  • Watch Videos – Same as podcasts – gives you exposure, ideas, lets you see and hear together what is meant by various techniques and words
  • Write the word down several times – in context
  • Make up your own story or your own sentence 
  • Ask someone who brings it up to explain, then give them an example sentence or situation and see if you understand (my personal favorite a lot of times)
  • Learn the root words, prefixes and suffixes.  That organic chemistry compound earlier can be explained in its parts. For non-chemistry examples: hetero- means different, chrom- means color, epi- means above -graph means write …
  • Use word clouds to gain familiarity. Create your own on Wordle or Tagul.
  • Google search – or your favorite web search engine.
  • Post on a forum about what other people know. People are generally helpful enough to answer your questions.
  • Use mnemonics to help your brain link common terms and objects to more complicated ones



Screen capture from http://www.tagul.com    


Do teacher-type techniques for extreme vocabulary learning (like for tests when you HAVE to know words)   

  • Make it fun. Create word crosses, word searches, and puzzles at discovery puzzlemaker site
  • Matching quiz. Write or copy the list of words and the list of definitions and paste each into two separate columns in a word processing or spreadsheet program.  Then alphabetize all the words alphabetically, and alphabetize all the definitions reverse alphabetically.  Do a matching game.
  • Create flashcards.  Used this to demonstrate the idea of stoichiometry in equations.  Physically moving something around helped with movement and learning.  As quilters, we move around the parts of our quilt blocks – that is similar to how to learn balancing equations.
  • Create a blog about a new word or idea.  Chances are that teaching someone else something will help you learn it better yourself.  Blogs are good for this.


 Something fun    

I hope you enjoy a little crossword that I created using words from Quilt University’s own Quilt Glossary.  You can find the PDF below.    

Go to Wordle and Tagul for your own word designs (having trouble with embedding links on my blog somehow)    

How about a Dictionary.com 

 Some Vocabulary podcasts I found (listened a lot to Grammar Girl – very good podcast!)    

Here’s my First Completed Quilt!    

This quilt was done from Carol Doak’s Your First Quilt Book, ribbons pattern.  Most color and quilting decisions made by Carol Doak.     


The completed quilt above and a bit of quilting close up below,    


and if you didn’t see it last week, a close up of the binding    


I need to read more carefully Jennifer Ruvalcaba’s episode notes next time for the binding, or not worry about the sleeve so much.    

Additional Resources    

Quilting Dictionary Sites   

 Brawndo website from the movie Idiocracy (not endorsing the product, but look at all the marketing!)  
What do you think about dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO)? 


Special thanks to my encourager commenters: Jill (e-mail), Jill (post on blog), Colleen, Debby, Ingrid, Reeze    

Thanks also to my other new commenters and e-mailers: Sister Diane, Ann, TimeLady, LabMom, driftwood, Kathy, Dru, Tuxedo Designs, Leah Day, Michele Foster, Lana, Ruthann, Christine, Peggi, Christine, Marion    

Specifically check out    

the Scientific Inspiration post from LabMom    

the fibonacci quilt tutorial from driftwood    

the Scientific Quilter Origin story on Quilting Gallery


  1. Hey Darla!

    It’s Kim from Canada.

    I just wanted to let you know that I’d hear about RSS feeds and kinda knew what they were about but now, because I listened to your podcast this afternoon, I’m going to subscribe to a reader and set up some blogs to follow. So, “No”, not everyone knew what they were or how to use them.

    Keep up the good work Darla!


    • Kim, It’s obvious (to me) that I need to work on some self-doubt issues. I am glad I could help with the RSS feeder thing. Days after I posted my podcast Sister Diane had a post on Crafty Pod site about advanced Google Reader, which I’m posting here:
      I learned a few things from that too! Now everytime I find a new blog I open up reader, hit the subscribe button, copy and paste the address in. Quick and easy and organized. Now I have to start with the stars and the likes and other things.
      Thanks for listening and commenting!

  2. Hey, Darla, same jill as Big Tent–thanks for the hello.

    I agree w/Kim, who knew? I’m on it now

    Your quilt is lovely, really nice job of color selection. It will be a great window hanging and then you will always be able to see it and admire.

    Good podcast subject. You sound as if you are getting more comfortable w/the microphone. I think one of the things I enjoy most about listening to podcasts is that it is just like listening to a “friend” talk about whatever is interesting to her at that moment. We get to learn something in a very fun way. keep up the corny jokes; they make us laugh.

    • Hey Jill nice to see you here too!

      Thanks for the compliment on the quilt. Most of the selection was Carol (Doak’s), but not all, so that’s good. Thanks for your comment on the subject too. I never can tell what others are going to want when I go “astray” a little bit, but variety is the spice of life!
      I don’t know what I was laughing about most of the first part of the podcast exactly, other than myself. Which I am glad to be able to have corny jokes that others can at least giggle at as well. For more inspiration for that silly side I can hide so well, I need to listen to more patchwork and pacifiers. It’s pretty cool to see all these friends emerge out of nowhere (a year ago I knew NONE of this existed), so keep in touch!

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