Lost in Translation

Neon sign retro party










When words (and worlds) collide


This week I facilitated a webinar on Motivational Interviewing for members of the Ontario Association of Social Workers. I like how webinars offer an opportunity for professional development in a distributed learning format from the comfort of home or office; and clinical social workers tuned in for our evening session from various regions, cities and towns. We had a fun and at times informal conversation in the chat bar, with some interesting discussion focused on my unintentional use of idiomatic expressions and vernacular language.


Idioms are culture-bound and can be confusing to diverse groups who may puzzle at their intended meaning. For example, when I talk about needing to keep my head above water in working with complex clinical scenarios. And one of my personal favorites is a skill or tool that’s as easy as pie. No doubt there was a time when pie-making was super-easy, but not anymore (at least for me anyway).


Expressions aren’t just culture-bound, they can also be generational in their meaning. In this week’s webinar I talked about the Coles Notes version of Motivational Interviewing in reference to a one-page “Motivational Interviewing Tip Sheet”. There was some light-hearted (another idiom!) text-chat in the sidebar about the generational divide among people who understand what Coles Notes actually refers to.


Last night I had a conversation with the teenager in my life about putting pen to paper. Her reply? “I don’t know what that means”.


Maybe I need to spend some time with urbandictionary.com.



Six Tips for Facilitating Webinars



1 comment
  1. itsbecauseisaidso said:

    Today I had to explain to my 13-year-old son what “nose to the grindstone” meant. Even when I finished, he said “I still don’t get it. And it’s gross. I don’t want to think about grinding my nose off when I’m doing my homework.” Sigh.

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