How to Read the Help Wanted Ads

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If you’re looking for a job (many of us are), it helps to understand what people are actually saying in their ads. The “Help Wanted” section is very much like any other form of advertising: Code words, catch phrases, and qualifiers help employers to accomplish their primary purpose… which is, of course, to avoid being cited for lying like a politician. Some things to watch out for:

Opportunity — this word invariably refers to work which has no wage or salary, will require you to work long hours and/or buy specialized equipment (e.g., “sales kit”) and/or rent a space to ply your trade, and could actually show a profit… for the boss. You get the scraps from the Trickle Down Table. Ayn Rand fans love this word (which should give you your first clue that you do not want to work for them).

Assistant — because the word is non-specific, chances are that you’ll be expected to do anything. Whether it’s “tidy up around the office” or creating an Access database from scratch, you’ll be paid the same for all work, and it will almost certainly not be above the poverty-creating minimum wage currently in force in the United States. You’ll be required to have education and experience, yet still be paid as much as the guy flipping burgers at the local fast-food place.

Entry-Level — properly, this refers to a starting position for someone with no experience, a job created to provide experience, and therefore probably pays bare minimum. However, employers are now requiring as much as two full years of experience for the “entry-level” position, titled thus so that they can pay the rate reserved for the inexperienced person.

Highest Average Pay in Industry for Recent Graduates! — You’re too new to this whole job-seeking thing to figure out just how badly we’re going to screw you. Oh, and we also know that you’ve got about $100,000 in student loan debt that you can’t get out from under, so you’ll probably take anything we throw at you.

Be Your Own Boss — don’t look to us for a paycheck!

Manager Trainee — minimum pay while you learn, then $1/hr more for being responsible for opening/closing, balancing the till, loss prevention, and riding herd on other employees who don’t want to be there either.

Opportunity for Growth — for the CEO, yes; you’ll keep getting paid the same lousy minimum, or less if possible.

Must Be Able to Multi-Task — we’re so disorganized that we’ll force you to do everything at once, then have you to blame when it isn’t right.

Fast-Paced Office — see “Multi-Task.”

I’m sure that I must sound prejudiced. I ask you, however, to consider the type of people who are advertising here. Someone wants to hire an experienced Java coder for $9/hr. Another wants to turn over his accounts payable to someone who will receive the princely sum of $11/hr. An experienced network administrator is being offered as much as $12/hr. These people lie and lie again, and then are shocked to discover that you might have padded your resume with an extra six months of experience listed, in order to meet their unreasonable demands. Until American businessmen quit kissing Ayn Rand’s filthy tuchis and start treating employees with respect, they’re going to get what they pay for.

I’m Tristan Black Wolf, reminding you to say what you mean… and mean what you say.

Yes, We Have Some Bananas

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As a devout fan of singer/songwriter Harry Chapin, it’s only natural that I love his ballad of pasty fruit called “30,000 Pounds of Bananas.” It’s a strange and true story of a young man who, driving an 18-wheeler filled with (yeah, you guessed it ) 30,000 pounds of bananas, fails to shift into low gear going downhill into the town of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and has an almighty crash. (A recording of a live version of the song is on YouTube; I love the various endings that it goes through!)

For me — until recently, at least — a banana was (as Sigmund Freud once said) just a banana. A wonderful friend of mine has lived in Hawai’i for years, and she informed me that there are no fewer than 47 different words to describe bananas in various states of ripeness, presentation, and even actions regarding what to do with bunches hanging from the tree. Here’s just a sampling:

Mai’a kaua lau — a banana, dark green when young, and yellow and waxy when mature.

Kapule — a banana hanging until its skin has black spots. (A wee bit late for shipment to the mainland, I’d think!)

Palaku — a thoroughly ripe banana. (My sister likes them this way, to make her world-famous banana bread.)

Maui — (verb) to wring the stem of a bunch of bananas to cause the bunch to ripen. (The island of Maui, second largest of the islands of Hawai’i, gets its name from the son of its legendary discoverer, Polynesian navigator Hawaiʻiloa, who probably was never cruel to a bunch of bananas in his life.)

Pola — the hanging down of the blossom of a banana palm or a bunch of bananas. (I’m told that this word can have some naughty contexts regarding males. ‘Nuff said.)

Halane — a large bunch of bananas. In this case, “bunch” is not like a clutch of a half dozen that we might see at our supermarkets; think more along the lines of the Jamaican calypso tune “Banana Boat Song (Day-O),” made popular by Harry Belafonte, which sang of the “six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch!”

Hua’alua — a double bunch of bananas. Definitely not what you can carry home in your canvas tote bag.

Manila — a banana tree not used for fruit but for rope fiber.

Lele — a tall wild banana placed near the altar, offered to the gods and used also for love magic.

Not that I doubt my friend’s experience, but I was very happy to find these listed in Adam Jacot de Boinod’s remarkable book The Meaning of Tingo — an extraordinary book about words from around the world. No library is complete without a copy. Enjoy!

I’m Tristan Black Wolf, reminding you to say what you mean… and mean what you say.

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