When the company recently relocated its offices from Addison to Chicago, I had the final departmental decision on what was kept and what was tossed. It was not an easy job. We had to funnel 50 years of editorial, invoices, and pictures into smaller quarters.
One of my easier decisions was to trash an old Webster's Dictionary. Positioned on a nice wooden podium just outside my office, the large tome took up a lot of space.
Purchased in 1987, it became our key style guide. Editors continuously referred to it as they verified that every word was correctly spelled, and phrases or idioms were properly invoked.
When I marked the book for trash, there was a subtle complaint from some of the traditionalists on the staff. For them, the old book was a reminder of a “wordsmith” time of journalism. For me, it was a sign that journalism is an ever-changing profession.
I used the book for my first and last time shortly after joining this magazine. I sought the definition of what became a favorite word of mine – plinth. At the time, I hadn't updated my spell check file to include all the colorful words found in masonry detailing.
We need to find a way to ensure that everyone in the industry has updated their spell check to include our legacy of great terms. I fear the loss of some of these great words could erode our industry's influence in the design community. After all, what's a craft without a language of its own? We can't allow electronic technology to transform our workplace language into a bland collection of approved generic words.
Can you imagine a mason trying to describe a feature on a project without using terms like spandrel, voussoir, or cornice? I think masonry's appeal is its artistry of hand and word. We need to protect both.
It's hard to guard our image. Masonry is under attack from a wide-range of mass-produced building component systems. These industries are spending millions of promotional dollars touting the message that their product is “just like masonry without ________” (fill in the blank with an appropriate term).
I would like to assist in promoting and protecting our rich masonry vocabulary. I am offering a challenge with which we can have a little fun. We have posted two, one-page drawings of some common masonry details on our Web site (www.masonryconstruction.com). We are asking you to return drawing with the proper masonry term for each detail via fax at 773-824-2401, with "Masonry Details Challenge " in the subject line. You can download Drawing 1 , or Drawing 2.
We based our quiz on the excellent drawings found in Illustrated Building Pocket Book by Roxanna McDonald. (It's a great book that is an accurate reference for much more than masonry.)
If you fax back the form and get all the answers correct, we'll send you a 2008 World of Concrete lapel pin or pen, while supplies last. Around the first of July, we'll post the correct answer page on the Web. And if you allow us, we'll list the names of the folks who answered every item correctly.
If we can get everyone speaking our language, it will be easier to win back our fair market share.
If you can't get to the Web, call me at 773-824-2492 and leave your fax number or mailing address. I'll send you an entry form.
If you want to get all the answers right, you can always order “Illustrated Building Pocket Book” (ISBN 978-0-7506-8015) from Elsevier. The publisher's Web site iswww.books.elsevier.com. The 232-page book sells for $35.95.