It could have been you

Football mania, here we go again.  My, my, how can I resist it?

Indeed, I can’t resist watching and talking about the 51 games of 24 national teams vying for the 2021 European Football Championship trophy (simply known as the UEFA Euro, scheduled initially in July last year but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

However, it is not the focus of this article. On 12 June 2021, Christian Eriksen collapsed during his Danish team’s match against Finland. According to media reports, the referee acted quickly by alerting medical staff, who administered promptly cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) treatment and took him to the nearest hospital in Copenhagen.

A CPR involves uninterrupted chest compressions of 100 to 120 a minute until paramedics arrive. It is a lifesaving technique necessary in emergencies, such as a heart attack or near-drowning experience. Although it can be done by untrained bystanders and first responders, I’m unsure of being able to do it.

Last September, on my way from work, I saw a man lying on a cemented ground. When I asked him what was wrong, I got no response. He didn’t move and kept his eyes shut.  It was one of those “Law of Murphy” days; my phone had run out of battery. I ran across the road and stopped a jogger, urging him to call the Service d’aide médicale urgente (SAMU – 15). “The man there isn’t breathing, and my phone is dead”.

He did not call emergency, but he came with me, dashing to the seemingly lifeless creature. He, too, did not apply CPR. However, he checked if the man was conscious or unconscious by tapping him on his shoulder and asked him loudly, “Are you OK?”

He fumbled in his pocket then dialled a number. It probably was less than 15 minutes since he had called the SAMU, but it felt like ages.  When I heard the loud siren coming from the eastern part of the city, I decided to leave, as I was late for my appointment with the City Hall to renew my French identity card.

Should I have applied CPR on him? The difference between doing something and nothing could be someone’s life, and I wish CPR was included in all school curricula in all nations. As well, all companies should have this in their staff workshop, training or development programme.

When the heart stops, our bodies do not get oxygen-rich blood, which causes brain damage in a few minutes; thus, time is the essence. The CPR can keep oxygen-rich blood flowing to the brain and other organs until emergency medical staff arrive and treatment is applied to restore a normal heart rhythm.

For untrained people, like me, it is primordial to remember the emergency number: 112 for Australia, all EU countries and some parts of Asia; 911 for North America and many US territories; and 999 for the UK and British overseas territories. It’s also useful to remember the Police’s (e.g. France – 17) and Fire Department’s (France – 18) phone numbers, as their dispatchers can instruct you in the proper procedures until help arrives.

Then, of course, there are many emergency apps that you can install on your cell/ mobile phone. (Cell – US. Mobile – Europe. In Australia, it’s “mobile”; but for my family and friends, it’s only “phone” because landlines have become a rare household commodity).  Phone apps are valuable when the unexpected happens, such as saving a life or surviving a disaster, and some of them are free.

(You could have been me, the man approached to help out, or the person lying on the ground)!

What’s behind a name?

I facilitate an English roundtable in Luxembourg every Friday, and we discuss professional, social and personal-interest topics. Last month, it was about names; one of the participants mentioned a girl initially called Nutella, a popular hazelnut chocolate spread. I checked it out and came across a Guardian’s article about a couple from Valenciennes in northern France who registered their daughter Nutella ( https://www.theguardian .com/world/2015/jan/26/french-couple-name-girl-nutella seen on 04/052021). The registrar alerted the local prosecutor, who referred the case to a family court judge. The court ruled that Nutella is a commercial brand and such a name was against the girl’s interests as it would cause “mockery or disobliging remarks”. The couple had to rename her Ella, which means a pleasant young woman.

According to Ms Catharine Smith (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/baby-named-facebook-egypt_n_825934 seen 04/05/21), an Egyptian father, Jamal Ibrahim, named his daughter “Facebook” to honour the social media site’s role in Egypt’s revolution. Ms Smith quoted this from TechCrunch newspaper: “A young man in his twenties wanted to express his gratitude about the victories the youth of 25th of January have achieved and chose to express it in the form of naming his firstborn girl “Facebook”. 

In Marcio’s Italian family, all the children’s names start with the letter M.  According to Marie-Pierre, her name’s male version is Pierre-Marie. The Arabic name Shadi means happiness. Do names reflect an individual’s personality? There are studies that show names make a difference in professional, social and financial standing.

My late uncle was Silverio Carangan, Sr. My cousins’ legal names are Silverio Carangan 1st, Silverio Carangan 2nd, and Silverio Caranagan 3rd; to everyone, they’re Ono, Dos, Tres.  I was already eight months pregnant, and my hubby and I couldn’t agree on a name for our firstborn. We decided to play chess; I won two out of three games and had the privilege of naming him Sidney, which is easy to pronounce in almost all languages.

My late parents, Roberto and Adela, named their first daughter Rodela; from this, they came up with four other names by rearranging the letters, and mine was one of them. If you know of another person with the same name as mine, please notify me. So far, the closest is Rolande and Rolanda, which are both of Latin origin and mean “known in the land”. My French acquaintances call me “Rolad” (/ruːˈlɑːd), as the last vowel is not pronounced in the French language. They also have a dish roulade (/ruːˈlɑːd) de boeuf“, which is a filled rolled meat.

S.J. Velasquez’s 2018 write-up spoke about nominative determinism, a theory that people are drawn to jobs matching their names, e.g. Baker for a pastry chef and Dennis or Denise for dentists (https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20180404-do-our-names-push-us-toward-certain-jobs). Two weeks ago, I grinned watching the French television station TF1’s interview of a restaurateur Didier Desert (“Desert” is pronounced by English speakers as ‘dɪˈzəːt’ (dessert – a sweet course eaten at the end of the main meal, e.g. cheesecake or chocolate mousse).

If you had a funny, weird or embarrassing name, would you change it? If your family name was Head, would you keep your first name Dick knowing that dickhead means a stupid or ridiculous man? You are probably one of those who would go through all the legal fuss to do so.  Many people, however, never change their names. Are there names that employers find, either subconsciously or sentimentally, attractive or ugly?

Ms Stéphanie Thomson’s article revealed the Canadian Ryerson University and University of Toronto’s finding that people with Chinese, Indian or Pakistani-sounding names were 28% less likely to get job interviews than the fictitious candidates with English-sounding names, even when they had the same qualifications (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/05/job-applications-resume-cv-name-descrimination/). Ms Thomson also mentioned a French government’s conclusion that employers were less likely to interview candidates with North African-sounding names. Likewise, in the UK, “an all-parliamentary group study from 2012 found that women who ‘whitened’ their names or made them sound more British had to send only half as many applications before being invited to interview as those who sounded foreign”, she wrote. 

Has our society progressed in terms of addressing bias and discrimination associated with names? Have you had a good or bad experience because of your name? What’s behind your name?

Training and Learning at Home

“The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.” – B.B. King (1925-2015, American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and record producer).

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented teleworking, including banks that used to disallow this for security reasons. In-person staff development training programme came to a halt for a while, then picked up virtually.

Staff development training is still arguably necessary in today’s world because competitiveness and changes are our society’s norms. Therefore, employers should continue providing this even during a lockdown or when their employees work from home. Governments in developed nations subsidise and consider such expense tax-deductible, which is an additional enticement. Though online training may not be cheaper as companies expect and more manageable as learners or participants like it to be, it is worthwhile.

Online training requires at least as much effort and time, and sometimes even more. Trainers need to buy or update their equipment, adjust their practices and style, and deal with disturbances from students’ family situations and technological hiccups. I have heard stories of participants cooking, texting, and feeding cats while on language training. It’s not the moment to multitask! I must admit that I cut my nails and did aerobics during boring webinars that did not allow participants to ask questions (guilty as charged!).

Virtual training can mirror only some face-to-face interactions (i.e. trainers going around the classroom and having water cooler conversation during breaks are impossible to reproduce).

How can teleworkers make the most of their online staff development training? My answer is WALPAH:

W –     Working technology – A (hu) “man is only as good as his tools” is especially true when you are training online: high-speed internet connection, a computer or modern laptop, camera, microphone headset, mouse, etc. (Do you say “I’ve two mouses or two mice? I.T. specialists seem to prefer the former, but the latter is correct, even if this sounds like you’ve pets instead of handheld devices on a flat surface in front of your computer).

A –      Avoid absences and late attendance (However, better late than never).

L –      Learning space should be quiet and tidy.

P –      Participate – ask questions and make comments to the trainer and other participants.

A –      Adapt your learning style – take notes, listen to everyone, read shared messages, and discuss personal views.

H –     Have fun – smile, share appropriate jokes and anecdotes.

How about trainers’ best practice? (I couldn’t come up with an acronym; perhaps you can help me with this).

1. Know and prepare your technology – Ensure a stable Internet connection, clean monitor, working camera and microphone, and mobile and laptop ready on the side in case the main computer fails.

2. Conduct the training in a quiet, disturbance-free and professional-looking environment.

3. Choose a platform that allows for interactivity – Use whiteboard annotations, chat and breakout groups (dividing learners into small groups of two or three).

4. Start the training by welcoming the participants, then providing them with a clear understanding of the session’s scope and content.

5. Meaningful experience – Call participants by their names. When the training is finished, encourage them to share contact information and continue improving their knowledge and skills.

Involve everyone throughout the training by prompting them to ask questions and share anecdotes and knowledge related to the activity.

6. Stick to the schedule – Your participants are professionals who have work and family commitments; therefore, start and end the session on time.

“For the best return on your money, pour your purse into your head.” Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790, stateman – helped draft the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution)

My FB account was hacked; Not Linkedin

A fortnight ago, I received a message from an acquaintance saying he believed my Facebook account was hacked.  There’s no compromising information in it, but I had to react quickly to make sure that this wouldn’t have consequences on my contacts.  I changed my password right away and posted a warning.

It was one of the “why me” moments. I should have paid attention to the red flags. Last February, I tried to open the message sent via Messenger by an American writing pal. It looked encrypted/coded, similar to the one sent by someone pretending to be me. I did tell him that I couldn’t open it, but he didn’t reply. I should have changed my password right away.

I had the same password for many years – too lazy to change it and thought I was a small, non-attention grabbing fish.

If you notice that a message has been sent that you didn’t write, you have been hacked. I’ve heard stories of hackers changing people’s email addresses, passwords, or birthdays.

How is this unethical and illegal behaviour carried out? 1. Using stored password on FB making life easier in the short-term but a security issue in the long term. 2. The hackers “fish” for your information by creating a Facebook main page’s look-alike and asking you to log in. When you enter your email and password, this information is automatically recorded for future use.  3. A software or virus that records and steals information has been installed in your device, without your knowledge.

Don’t leave your device – cell phone, laptop, etc. – unattended, don’t trust public networks, and always log out after using Facebook.  These have been my social media principles; yet, I was hacked, which gave me a headache and sleepless night. I felt like someone had stolen something personal and of value from me.

How about Linkedin accounts? Yes, they can be hacked too. Dean Seddon’s 13th January 2020’s article “How to protect your Linkedin account from being hacked” advises us to:

  1. Link our phone to our Linkedin account and turn on two-step verification, as this “will limit the use of the account and a hacker’s ability to change or access your account from unfamiliar locations. When you log in from a new device or unfamiliar location, Linkedin will send you an SMS with a verification code, limiting the potential use of the hacked account”. You can use this link https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/answer/544/turn-two-step-verification-on-and-off?lang=en
  2. Not open any PDF project proposal. Session cookies allow hackers to access your account using your current Linkedin session. “That unexpected Google Drive doc, Dropbox link or PDF which is sent to you from a connection. You’ll get a message like ‘Hi Dean, I would love you to take a look at this project proposal and give me some costs’”. If you do open this, “you’ll lose your access and find that your Linkedin account will start messaging people ‘confidential project proposals’ too”.
  3. Have a password that is complicated and not easily guessed.

Better be careful and secure than sorry later.

Succeeding in a multidisciplinary workplace

My Aussie relative, a business and marketing professional by training and experience, asked recently my significant other how he could succeed in his new job working with engineers. As an engineer, he answered: “Those who have chosen technical studies/professions are more project/object-oriented than those who work in the arts/humanities/social/business fields. Often, but not always, technical people are not at ease communicating, are more or less introverted, and do not like human interaction too much. But, one should not generalise”. He advised him to “get quickly to speed on technical knowledge because “E/engineers” do not like to waste their time with those who are unfamiliar with what they do.

Is it true that engineers are experts in their field of interest, and that’s it? Articles on this subject agree with my significant other. They are good critical thinkers but often lack communication and interpersonal skills, which are generally possessed by those in the social sciences. It’s not their fault; it can be attributed to the lack of importance given to these soft skills during their engineering education. So, what will you do if you belong to the humanities/social science domain and have to work with those in the other group or vice versa?

Does the stereotyping of professions help?

Stereotyping is a cognitive process that involves associating a character trait with a group of individuals. It is about making sense of the insufficient knowledge we have about people based on what we have read, heard or seen.  For instance, artists are free-spirited, intelligent, passionate, and un-pragmatic. Bankers are super rich and do not like paying taxes. Businesspeople are charismatic but ruthless when it comes to sales and profit. Public servants are cool because of their job security. Programmers and IT personnel wear eyeglasses and are poorly dressed.  Scientists are like Albert Einstein; they are brilliant but lack social and practical skills.

Personality experts and psychologists tell us that we use stereotypes to deal with situations without much thinking and to fit our social world, such as when we meet or work with a new person. Not all stereotypes are harmful, but they are always an incomplete picture of reality. Therefore, it should be taken with a grain of salt. (The same as “a pinch of salt” – accepting it with scepticism about its truth).

When you regard colleagues solely by the stereotype attached to their professions, you defraud them of other aspects of their individuality. Whatever profession you have and that of your workmates, what is needed is to supplant stereotype with a sense of conscientiousness. Psychology Today has this to say about conscientiousness: “comprises self-control, industriousness, responsibility, and reliability. A conscientious person is good at self-regulation and impulse control. This trait influences whether you will set and keep long-range goals, deliberate over choices, behave cautiously or impulsively, and take obligations to others seriously”. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/conscientiousness seen on 28/02/21). The article further says that consciousness is not only an essential ingredient for success in the workplace, but it is also a significant predictor of health, well-being, and longevity.

Conscientiousness, however, is just one part of our overall personality. Irrespective of our occupation, we should have a positive attitude, self-confidence, humility, and self-awareness (knowing our strengths and weaknesses). 

Masks Mia, Here We Go Again – Worse Before Better

In March 2020, I thought the pandemic would be less threatening by August; it wasn’t so, and we had to cancel our summer holiday. In November, I was sure we could spend Christmas with our sons in England; it did not happen. In December, I thought 2021 would be pandemic-free due to the rolling out of vaccines in Europe and some countries; wrong! Then, came the British, South African and Brazilian variants. Here in France, the 6 PM – 6 AM curfew was not adequate to stop the infection figures from climbing; so, the Government decided to close its borders for non-EU travellers. It’s impossible for my Aussie friends to visit me, and it’s unlikely that I’ll be Down Under for my sister’s 60th birthday.

I used to associate relaxation with watching TV and movies, reading and browsing online. Currently, these are not enough to chill me out.  With limited human interaction, I have incorporated routines that make me jump and sweat in front of my screen (either TV or computer) alone. These passive and active activities disconnect me from my teaching (which has shrunk significantly since March 2020) and house chores, which is known as psychological detachment. 

Ms Sabine Sonnentag has published an article on “Psychological Detachment From Work During Leisure Time: The Benefits of Mentally Disengaging From Work”. According to her, “psychological detachment from work during leisure time refers to a state in which people mentally disconnect from work and do not think about job-related issues when they are away from their job” (sagepub.com). Her research demonstrates that “employees who experience more detachment from work during off-hours are more satisfied with their lives and experience fewer symptoms of psychological strain, without being less engaged while at work”. 

In other words, high involvement in one’s job during off-working hours means no psychological detachment that has ill-being consequences. You add poor working conditions to this equation, and you know what to expect — lousy mood, stress…

When we are psychologically detached from work, we do not have pressure to meet expectations, respect deadline, and face judgements regarding success or failure.  There is a sense of calmness – i.e. state of being devoid of agitation and negative excitement.

What are your psychological detachment strategies? If you have not thought of these yet, it is never too late.  Based on recent data regarding the new COVID-19 variants and the slow pace of worldwide jabbing, fighting this pandemic is a long haul. It can still get worse before it gets better. As such, there will be teleworking, homeschooling, social distancing, testing, quarantining, and job losing and seeking for a while. Stay safe.

Giving and receiving

How was your holiday? Ours what unusual and unexpected. We planned to spend Christmas in London, where our first son lives. In mid-December, London was on tier/level 4 lockdown (residents were strictly housebound); therefore, we thought of taking the train or bus to Oxford where it was level 2 (restaurants and shops were opened). We would then meet up with our second son, who lives in Canley in the southwest of Coventry near Warwick University. It was a blessing in disguise that our flight was cancelled the night before our scheduled departure because the next day the British Government included Oxford on its tier 4 list. We would have been stuck in London quarantined in a low-budget hotel without the certainty of returning to France by the first week of January 2021. Instead, we had a virtual family Christmas party on the 25th with carols and quizzes.

We’re still in the period of giving and receiving gifts. So far, what have you given and/or received?

My husband is a football enthusiast and enjoys watching the English Premier and European League; a ticket to one of their matches would have been an easy choice. As sports were televised only due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was more realistic to accompany him in our attic and watch from our bedroom’s skylight the pigeons compete over grains and worms.

What’s the perfect gift for me from him? I wanted to see purple (my favourite colour) candles on the hallway leading up to our bedroom and find our bed covered with red roses and heart-shaped white chocolates. After all, red and white were the colour motifs during our church wedding. Everyone was in red and white apparel, including the pastor. There was a five-layer white cake with red cupcakes as giveaways.

I appreciate any gift from friends. If I don’t fancy it, I’ll pass this on to my family who wants it or to my favourite charity. Such action is good for my pockets and planet. Unwanted gifts that are not regifted or do not end up in charity shops find a home in landfills and tips that contributes to environmental problems. In developing countries, regifting is a welcomed necessity; of course, it has nay-sayers. Some people think that those who regift are stingy and disrespectful. Charities sell donated items, and the money is used to help the needy.

Gift-giving during the December-January period is cultural. It can be a way of showing affection, fondness or gratefulness. It does not need to involve a big amount. Research studies and surveys show that expensive gifts are not always appreciated; for instance, many receivers associate handmade items with kindness and positivism.

There is a social pressure to reciprocate; when we receive a gift, we give one in return. Does this equate with happiness? What is the best present? Isn’t it time that family and friends spend with us (talking on the phone or online when it is impossible to do so physically)?

In 2020, we lurched from pandemic and insecurity to division and isolation. In 2021, let us take stock of our lives and find the gift of wonder and joy in our personal, social and professional relationships safely. Happy New Year!

Inaction is aiding and abetting society’s ills

It’s the second lockdown in some places.  In my city in the north of France that shares borders with Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg, the streets are almost empty. Although the authorities allowed shops to reopen three days ago, local businesses find customers hard to come by.  Residents who go out for work reasons are at home before dusk. Hence, I was not surprised when I read that the number of reported street crimes has declined.

Meanwhile, we know that every crisis provides an opportunity for people to be resourceful; as well, not all crimes happen in the streets. Since the first lockdown in March, there have been reports on the rise in domestic violence, sale of fake medicine and treatment, consumption of exorbitant coronavirus-recommended cleaning and health products, and solicitation of donations for charities that either do not exist or do not deliver what they promise.

Recently, I heard about the UK’s COVID Fraud Hotline (0800 587 5030) encouraging people to phone anonymously and free of charge any suspected fraudulent activity. If you knew someone who has been claiming support illegally or abusing government schemes, would you call the hotline? It takes a long time for fraud to be discovered, and governments need a helping hand. Should we extend this to them?

Fraud against the public purse, wherever you are, limits or even denies access to vital funds that benefit society as a whole. This money should be used to help the poorest: contract workers, market stallholders, casual service providers and carers, struggling small businesses and independent earners, and those who are ineligible for unemployment benefit and do not have the means to feed and shelter themselves and their families; not double-dippers.

Will you tell the authorities about your colleague who is on paid parental leave but still continues freelancing? Will you refuse your employer’s directive to deal with clients’ queries or respond to work emails when you are on furlough? How about companies that get subsidy or funding to keep employees but do the opposite and pocket the money?

Fraud, whether big or small, affects all of us. The article “Most Common Workplace Frauds That Employer Should Know About” (https://www.bizeducator.com/most-common-workplace-frauds-that-employer-should-know-about) mentions, among other things, “Bogus supply of goods and services” and “Manipulation of bank reconciliations and cash books”. Those found guilty of these crimes are punished by fines, restitution, dismissal from work, or imprisonment.

Some common frauds in the workplace are hidden and unlikely to come to the attention of the authority. These include claiming for unworked hours, malingering, stealing office supplies, staging accidents, and faking injuries. It will be interesting to research on fraud in the workplace pre, during and post-pandemic.

“I’m not an informer”, “I hate workplace spies”, “I can’t be a whistleblower”, “I don’t want to be responsible for someone’s scuppered life”, so forth. Inaction is aiding and abetting our society’s ills, and it’s the elephant in the room.

Meanings are in people, not in words?

With globalisation and digitalisation, employees of one organisation often come from many places and cultures. They can have the same mentality driven by their company’s goals and values; however, not all of them automatically think, communicate and behave in the same manner due to such diversity.

Culture is knowledge and characteristics of a particular group of people, encompassing language, religion, arts, music, cuisine, and social habits. Although language is often the least difficult issue to confront, it can be a source of misunderstanding and unpleasantness at work.

What and how we speak are developed through cultural values and norms we learn directly and indirectly, which is called socialisation. In my recent English language class, a Polish student mentioned that for them “collaboration” is a negative word, i.e. siding with the Nazis – “the collaborators”. So, I suggested the use of “cooperation” or “working with” to avoid offending them.

An acquaintance gets upset every time she hears her colleagues use the word “execute”. These are the online dictionaries’ explanations of execute: a) to carry out fully or do what is required, b) to put to death in compliance with a legal sentence, c) to perform what is required giving validity to it, and d) to make or produce something – such as a work of art –  by carrying out a plan or design.

Why do they dislike the words “collaborate” and “execute”? They grew up in eastern and central Europe where their relatives and compatriots had been victims of collaboration and execution during the Second World War. Exposure to cultural cues and group narratives have contributed to their communication sensitivity.

We all associate words with various things related to our experience and environment. Unintentionally, we bring these moulds to our meeting rooms, offices and social functions that can make communication challenging or awkward.

How should we deal with misunderstanding due to elements of culture and socialisation? What about adapting our words and actions to these differences? Shall we stick to our patterns of behaviour without conflicting with those different from us? We can avoid miscommunication and ambiguity if we understand our history and culture and those of others.

During our first lesson that included a personal introduction, my student said, “I’m what others call a gipsy, but I prefer to be called a Romany”. (This is also spelt “Romani”).  We should ask questions, listen and respect others.

When I was young, my mother used the word “mulatto” to describe those whose one parent is black and the other is white. It was only when I was at university that I realised “mulatto” is offensive to some people.  Similarly, it is politically incorrect to use “half-breed” and “half-caste” to describe those whose parents have different skin colours and national origins. An acceptable phrase is “person of mixed cultures”.

Ethnicity (Cambridge Dictionary’s definition – “a particular race of people, or the fact of being from a particular race of people”), or its adjective “ethnic”, is quite all right for many people; however, it is often considered derogatory in the UK.  Ask the person which term they prefer (some people disapprove the phrase “person of colour”).

I use “foreign” to describe policies, something that comes from another country, or idea that I am not familiar with (strictly for non-human). I frown when a European calls me a “foreigner” because I am not an alien and do not feel and behave as an outsider (have lived longer in France than in my country of origin and been married to a local for nearly four decades).

We have to be open-minded and sensitive in our choice of words. Otherwise, consciously or unconsciously, we make our workplace and global village less desirable.

Death from or death with?

A fortnight ago, I read Marc Trabsky and Courtney Hempton’s article entitled “Died from or died with COVID-19? We need a transparent approach to counting coronavirus deaths” (The Conversation).  As an English language teacher for adults, I am used to answering questions on the sameness and differences in the meanings of words and phrases (e.g., work for/work with, look forward to/looking forward to, mandatory/compulsory, lease/rent, complete and finish, so forth). So, when I see articles on coronavirus, I think of the possible confusion due to the use of  ‘from’ and ‘with’.

Trabsky and Hempton explained, “Clarifying what’s being counted as a COVID-19 death is necessary for understanding the impact of the virus, and for informing public health and clinical responses to the pandemic.” In short, death from COVID-19. They further stated: “If we know who is susceptible to dying with COVID-19 because of pre-existing conditions, public health responses could more effectively target and protect potentially vulnerable people and communities”.

One of the dictionary definitions of ‘from’ is to indicate an agent cause or source; for example, I have received a motivating note from our supervisor. Whereas, ‘with’ denotes accompaniment, addition, combination, or presence; for example, I will accept the contract with two conditions. Hence, in the case of COVID-19 pandemic, who is/are responsible for the lumping of statistics that makes it confusing or difficult for the public to understand its real impact? Is it the reporters, medical practitioners, governments, or organisations or individuals with vested interests?

COVID-19, as with other pandemics, has highlighted the importance of numbers. Without statistical information, governments and relevant bodies (particularly the World Health Organisation) would not have been able to grasp this new and mysterious virus that continues to spread. However, these figures should be collected, analysed and presented to the public accurately and simply. Pundits’ data (useful or otherwise) are often quoted, requoted and forwarded quickly and widely, notably through the social media, with positive or negative consequences.

This subject reminds me of a former student who took an extended sick leave and did not finish her C1 English language course. According to her colleagues, it was due to stress from work.  I believed it readily but, now, I wonder if it was “stress with work”. How about ‘stress at work’? The first scenario gave me a scene of a horrible workplace that overpowered a happy personal and social life. The second one involved an unpleasant workplace due to uncooperative and rude manager or colleague, in addition to relationship difficulty at home.  

Stress at work can be beneficial as it keeps us alert and productive, as long as it does not trigger life-threatening events, such as severe health and emotional problems. The only way to deal with stress is to identify its cause and then reduce or eliminate this. I hope you are not stressed with the distinctive use of prepositions in the English language: by, for, from, in, with, on, at, etc. (I played chess at the weekend/UK; I played chess on the weekend/US = I spent time playing chess on Saturday or Sunday, and not over/during the weekend).

Prepositions are generally short words but essential. Their misused can make a difference between a clearly stated opinion and a confusing statement. However, when used properly, they allow us to share our ideas, emails and reports more precisely and understandably.