Rosetta Stone is NOT a nice Egyptian lady

"I see London, I see, wait, wrong superpower..."

Speak English! I don’t know the meaning of half those long words, and I don’t believe you do either! ~Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland

 Before I get started today, I’d like to thank all those who have offered their support and kind wishes and prayers to me during this time. I’d also like to thank my agent (yeah, right), my co-stars (ha, ha) and you the audience.

Language is a peculiar thing. There are homonyms, homophones, epigrams, anagrams, Teddy Grahams.  The English language, that great stew of many linguistic ingredients, is ever-evolving and changing. Isn’t it difficult enough to get through the day just communicating enough to get by in our jobs, our family life, our leisure time? Some of us escape into jargons to relax. Baseball jargon. D&D jargon. Every niche you can think of has its own. For example, any time I visit the LOLcats website, I feel as if somewhere, Geoffrey Chaucer must be rolling in his grave. English major, force of habit.

There is no more perplexing jargon than that of employers, applications and human resource departments. It’s no doubt hard enough for an NT. For someone on the spectrum, it’s akin to watching a dubbed version of Braveheart in German with Scottish accents (I can tell you this is true, because that really happened.)

We pay $9 hourly...that's living wages, right?

Learning this jargon is a little like walking through a minefield while blindfolded. Step very carefully, and you just might escape with your limbs intact.

To get past these robo-screeners, even your resume and application must be liberally full of euphemisms (a nice way of saying something nasty, such as “refuse management specialist” in place of good ol’ fashioned “garbage man.” ) For example:

“Unemployed” may become “between positions” or “involuntarily given leisure time.” Laid-off might wind up as “separated from company through no fault of one’s own.” I’m reminded of an Abbott and Costello routine, or else one of the more memorable episodes of The A-Team:

B.A. Baracus: You crash this plane?!

Murdock: No, no, no, no…I merely relocated the aircraft with extreme prejudice because of a total loss of thrust and lift…

He's not a teddy bear, Big Guy, he's an "Ursine-American of Plush Origin..."

I wish I knew the secret of keywords. I’ve become convinced that there is a magical keyword, not unlike the mystical number 42, that will unlock the secret of life, the Universe, and everything, not to mention a really killer mid-level job somewhere in the greater New England or Pacific Northwest that pays $16 hourly and benefits.

Believe me, I’ve tried most of them. “Team player.” “Self-motivated.” “Computer literate.” Hackneyed. Trite. Mostly untrue, with the exception of the computer literacy. I’m also convinced that this all-knowing, all-powerful Job Screening Entity is either H.A.L. from 2001: A Space Odyssey, or the robo-chess  opponent as seen in War Games. It’s impossible to know for sure. Just like when you didn’t get a position, what your competition possibly had that you didn’t. Was it a degree from Princeton? Fluency in Spanish? A jet pack?

One of the hardest things to do as an Aspie is to read body language. It is literally sometimes easier to read Mandarin Chinese than this, the most elemental forms of communication. It may not be our lack of skills or training, but our stiff posture or our poker face that serves as the deciding factor.

Superpower request #1: to be able to read minds.

We can’t read minds. No one can. Nor can anyone really decode what an employer is looking for. We might go in and do well, only to hear back a few days later, if at all.

I read an article in one of those dinky CareerBuilder or Monster newsletters (aren’t you as sick of those by now as you are of ramen noodles?) It was about the right way to follow up after a rejection. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I decided to try it. Back into the minefield I went.

Me: Hello, I’d like to speak with [name deleted].

Receptionist: May I tell her who’s calling?

Me: I’m Heather, I interviewed with her the other day. I’m calling to follow up.

Receptionist: Just a moment…

(Insert five minutes of mind wandering, then…)

HR Lady: Hello?

Me: This is Heather F., I met with you last week. I wanted to follow up and see how the process was coming along.

HR Lady: Oh, yes. We went with someone else.

Me: Any feedback you might be able to give me? (I’m going by the CareerBuilder dinky newsletter here. Stupid, stupid me.)

HR Lady: Oh, yeah, you were AWESOME! We think you should be, you know, working for the CIA or something.

(Translation: you’re overqualified.)

Me: Obviously not “awesome” enough…

HR Lady: Oh, yeah well, Helen,

Me: That’s Heather.

HR Lady: Good luck with your job search, ‘kay? (click)

Me: Hello? Hello? Are you there?

This has happened to me at least eight or ten times in the last two months. These unwritten rules must be like a code. It’s a code that is not taught in any school or university or course. It is a code most people learn over the course of their lives without much effort. For me, and for many other Aspies, it is a language we may speak stiffly, and with a strong accent, if we learn to speak it at all. Think of how we look at immigrants whose native language is not English. We may scorn them unintentionally for “not speaking our language,” even though they are trying.

Referring back to the poor Prawns of D9, they may be incapable of doing so at all. Does that mean we should treat them a second-class citizens? It shouldn’t.

As I hunt for a new job, I also continue to learn new skills and practice my hand at this strange, unfamiliar language. There is no Rosetta Stone course for it and no interpreter available. I just have to keep saying the words, a few at a time, letting my tongue get used to the sound and feel of them. Even if they’re not words at all.


"You stupid prawn. It's easy, see, E-V-I-C-T-E-D"

 Questions? Comments? Think I’m just jibber-jabbering? Drop me a line at (well, not literally drop…see, I can understand figures of speech!)


~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on August 19, 2010.

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abandonen toda esperanza aquellos que entren aqui


You - philosophical, thoughtful, witty. Me - still thinks fart jokes are funny. We should DEFINITELY get together!

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