Breaking the Bubble

Because I get so many emails everyday but have so little time to read them, I have to prioritize which emails I open. To determine which emails are the most relevant, important, and/or interesting to me, I rely on the subject lines of the emails. If the subject of the email doesn’t immediately strike me as something that possibly holds some value for me, I will put off reading the email until I have more time on my hands.

However, recently the subject line of an email caught my eye, not because I felt the email it was prefacing was of significant importance to me, but because I thought it was an interesting sentence. It read:

“Break the Georgetown Bubble with a Course Downtown at the CALL in Fall 2019!”

This sentence, I’d argue, is not hard to understand. It is clearly conveying the message that you (the reader) should get out of Georgetown by taking a course in Downtown D.C. next semester.

I, however, would like to analyze key aspects of this sentence that help produce the overall meaning.

I want to first focus on the word “break.” On it’s own, “break” can mean several different things, both as a noun and as a verb. However, by placing the word directly in front of an object, and it being the only possible action word in the sentence, we know that it is acting as a verb in this case. Additionally, because this object is “the Georgetown Bubble,” rather than “the law” or “a record,” we know that it is acting as a verb meaning something along the lines of bursting the object, which in turn implies venturing freely outside.

But by putting “Georgetown Bubble” in relation with “break,” a word that signifies in a sense the end of the existence of said bubble, in an imperative sentence, it gives “the Georgetown Bubble” a more negative connotation in this context. This is, of course, despite the fact that a bubble can have both a positive connotation (as something that protects) and a negative connotation (as something that isolates).

Lastly, I want to draw attention to the word “CALL.” Although this word has the same spelling as the word that refers to the act of reaching out and speaking to another person and to the form of communication resulting from using a telephone, we know that it does not refer to either of these two things in this sentence. First, we know it is not acting as a verb here due to the fact that it is preceded by a noun marker (“the”). Furthermore, the fact that the entire word is capitalized, despite all the other words having at most one capitalized letter, signals to us that it is not referring to telephone calls. We thus unconsciously deduce that this word is an acronym that is being used in place of the longer/full version of the name of this thing.

While some may argue that doing brief analyses/reflections like these are somewhat useless since we all understand the meaning of the sentence without all this analysis, I do think that it is important to occasionally step back and think about what we always do tacitly: finding meaning in things.

This is the image that was included in the email that provides what “CALL” actually stands for.

Effective Beauty

I’ll admit it: I’m a beauty junkie. I have more makeup and skincare products than I could ever use in any reasonable time frame, and yet the list of products that I want to buy seems to be forever growing.

But as a result of owning so many different products, I also have a lot of boxes and other types of packaging from these products, which all advertise the great benefits and innovative technology that the products possess and utilize.

The one that I most recently came back across was a box from one of my BB cushions (which, for those not really interested in makeup, is something that basically helps cover blemishes and even out your skin tone). The first line of the product’s description on the box reads: “More effective two-step oil control system!”

The first thing that I noticed about this phrase was the use of the word “more.” By placing “more” directly in front of a descriptor word, people immediately understand that it is indicating that a higher degree of the adjective (“effective”) exists for the object (“two-step oil control system”). In other words, the product is not simply effective, but has a greater effectiveness than other two-step oil control systems. But what exactly are the other two-step oil control systems that the authors of this description are referring to? We don’t know, but that was probably an intentional move by the authors. For their purpose of trying to market and appeal their product to customers, it is not necessary to know what exactly their product is being compared to. (In fact, listing the names of competing products can even be disadvantageous.) The most important thing, the thing that will have the most impact and help attract customers, is the simple knowledge that it is “more” than something else.

Additionally, I believe the choice to use an exclamation point rather than a period is significant. Rather than simply stating information and allowing readers to interpret and understand it as they wish, the authors make the fact that their product is more effective seem like something everyone should be excited about by using an exclamation point. This more positive, rather than neutral, rendering of the phrase again helps further the author’s purpose of making their product appeal to customers because the average shopper will be more inclined to purchase something that they are excited about and view favorably.

In sum, this phrase conveys an arguably simply and straightforward meaning: their product is more effective than other similar products. However, this meaning is conveyed in a way that will most effectively help persuade buyers to purchase the product.

Built Environment: Interior

A couple weeks ago, I went into Dupont Circle to observe the outside of 1623 Connecticut Avenue NW, the building that houses the Dupont Circle Club. This week, I returned to observe the Dupont Circle Club again — but this time, I went to survey the interior of the Club’s space.

As I mentioned in my previous blogpost, the building was built in 1911, and just as the outside of the building is indicative of this fact, so is the inside. While the building’s age is much more obvious when looking at the exterior, one can also tell from certain details on the interior, such as the crown molding along the ceiling, the mantel of the fireplace, and some of the doors.

However, one thing about the inside of the Dupont Circle Club that is different from the outside of it is the tone. While the exterior of the building comes off to me as somewhat cold and intimidating, I felt like the inside gave off a very warm and welcoming feeling. This, I believe, is due to several reasons: first, a majority of the space is painted fairly warm and vibrant colors. I felt that this was particularly the case for the meeting room below.

Second, rather than using very big, bright overhead lighting, the Dupont Circle Club relies on natural light and smaller light fixtures mounted on the walls, which I felt created a much more homey and comfortable environment. Third, there were various posters and pamphlets (such as those pictured below) that indicate more than just one type of person is welcome in the Club’s space. Lastly, the people who help run the Club and who come to the Club to attend meetings are generally very welcoming people. During my time looking around, I had a number of people smile at me and greet me verbally.

Speaking of the people who make up the community at the Dupont Circle Club, I noticed that while I was there, it is primarily white and Black people in attendance. Furthermore, it seemed that the majority were male, but of course there were also a few females in attendance as well. This make up could potentially reflect the diversity levels in the larger Dupont Circle community, national statistics about who goes to addiction recovery centers, or both. However, it is impossible to say for sure with out looking further into this.

The rooms in which meeting are held more or less all look the same. All three meeting rooms have various addiction recovery related posters and other decorations on the wall and dark blue-cushion chairs lined up around the space. Additionally, all of the rooms that the Club owns and utilizes are all connected to one another, which creates a fairly open space that is very easy to navigate.

In addition to these three meeting rooms, there is also an office/reception desk area and a lobby. In the office area, there are (unsurprisingly) various business related items such as a desk with a computer and file cabinets. What was slightly surprising to see, however, was a pantry with various snacks and beverages. But for anyone who looks at the sheets of paper posted next to the reception window, they* will realize that all these items are the things the Club advertises selling. In the lobby, there is a big bulletin board with various advertisements and announcements. It is on this bulletin board that one will find the only object (that I found) that states the organization’s mission.

The only other indication of the site’s use is the piece of paper pictured below that can be found in various places that lists all of the different meeting times for all of the different groups.

However, the lobby area also has keys with name tags strung along the ceiling, which are meant to honor the Club’s key supporters, whose donations have helped keep the organization’s doors open.

*The use of “they” here is intentional because it is an all-inclusive, gender-neutral term.

Interior Record 10

This is an image of the ceiling of the lobby of the Dupont Circle Club. Hanging from the ceiling is a string with a lot of different keys with name tags. These keys are meant to acknowledge each of the key supporters of the Club, who are people who have made a substantial donation to the Club that has helped them keep the doors open.

Interior Record 9

This is an image of what can be thought of as the doorbell for the Dupont Circle Club. It is located next to the interior/second door of the building, which is located directly in front of the stairs that actually lead up to the Club. In the bottom right of the image, one can see a sheet of paper that lists all of the different meeting times for all of the different recovery groups. This paper can also be found as a handout in all of the meeting rooms and as yet another piece of paper mounted on the wall in various places throughout the Club.

Interior Record 8

This is an image of the bulletin board found mounted on the wall in the Dupont Circle Club’s lobby. As one can see, each of the individual boards is dedicated to a certain topic: the first one is dedicated to general information and announcements (this is also where the mission statement can be found); the second one is dedicated to sober fellowship activities; the third one is dedicated to anniversaries and new meetings; and the fourth one is dedicated to treatment programs and sober living.  

Interior Record 7

This is an image of the type of chair that is found in all three of the meeting rooms. In the two bigger meeting rooms, these chairs are lined along the walls but also arranged in rows in the remaining space of the room, as somewhat seen here. However, in the smaller meeting room, these chairs are only lined up along the walls (as one can see here).

Interior Record 6

This is an example of the other types of things that can be found on the walls of the Dupont Circle Club that are not addiction recovery related posters. Such inspiring and uplifting quotes and phrases are quite frequently used to decorate throughout the space. However, framed photographs can also be found decorating some walls.

Interior Record 5

This is a closer look at two of the posters that are mounted on the wall of the smallest meeting room. The stated twelve steps and twelve traditions are specifically for alcoholics in recovery. However, similar types of posters for different types of addicts in recovery can be found throughout the Dupont Circle Club.

Interior Record 4

This is a rack of pamphlets that is found in the lobby area of the Dupont Circle Club. In addition to having general readings for anyone, there are also readings that are meant for specific minority groups: namely, women, Blacks and African Americans, and gays and lesbians. This is indicative that the Dupont Circle Club was serious when it stated that “All are welcome at DCC” in its mission statement.