Here´s part two of my interview with Liz Hartman Musiker. She is the author of The Smart Girl´s Guide to Sports. Liz is a tireless sports enthusiast and a former publicity director at Pocket Books (a part of Simon & Schuster). Although she lives on Long Island, she is more of a Yankees fan than a Mets fan, which horrifies her geographically loyal son and husband.
Why is language so important to learning? In other words, if we learn the vocabulary, can we sound smart and knowledgeable?
Learning the vocabulary is in a way, giving yourself a giant cheat sheet – in a good way. My book is really a giant cheat sheet, giving just enough information to allow one to sound "in the know." Language is important to learning because words and phrases mean many different things in different contexts. Take the word "copy." "Where´s the copy?" could mean "where´s the copy of the memo?" or" where is the copy from our writer for today´s issue of the journal." Additionally, sports language is used metaphorically everywhere: "Getting the Weeble account was a slam dunk for Jane." "Joe is the Babe Ruth of the shipping department." So yes, learning the vocabulary – of your business, of your co-workers, of popular culture can certainly ease one´s path. And most definitely, if you´re in a situation where you have to wing it, and need to sound, frankly, way more knowledgeable than you are, then yes, indeed, vocabulary is a key tool.
Do you think knowing the jargon in any business gives people an added edge?
Yes, as I mentioned above, because different words mean different things in different businesses. Knowing the jargon is especially important if one is looking for a job in a new field. For example, in publishing, knowing the difference between a mass market paperback, a trade paperback, a reprint, and a reissue, would be essential to getting anything other than an entry-level position. Of course, you could always fall back on sports. Just throw in a few sports phrases: "If you hire me, I´ll bring the numbers up to Super Bowl strength." "Hey, when it comes to sales pitches, I´m as smooth and graceful as DiMaggio."
Have you always been so smart about sports?
Absolutely not. I´ve been pretty football savvy for a long time — partly because I saw Joe Namath play when I was young and was instantly enthralled, and partly because I had a boyfriend in high school who played and I needed to know whether he would be in a good mood or a bad mood after the game. But that was it. As for my own athletic ability — I have none, I nearly flunked gym. I´m "active," but taking long walks and ballet classes does not absolve one from failure in, say, dodge ball. When I see a ball coming at me, I duck and run. This aversion to connecting with the thing that IS the object of desire, the point of the competition, does not bode well for athletic prowess. But, I´m a world class spectator and world class shooter-of-the-breeze about sports. When I realized what a decided difference my knowledge of football made in all sorts of situations – home, office, and the world at large – I made a concerted effort to learn about other sports. It´s been a blast.