Ask McArdle: Will taking stress leave hurt my career?

When to say no mas.


Will taking stress leave hurt my career?

For years, I awakened with trepidation about the coming day, with pain in my head and knots in my gut. But I never did anything about my worries except shrug and whisper, “Back to the salt mines.” Reflecting back, I should have recognized the stress my salt-mining career created and retired far sooner. Only when I injured myself—and the ample salt rubbed itself in the wound—did I see it was time to quit. So let this be a lesson: don’t worry about what will happen to your career if you take stress leave, worry about what will happen to you if you don’t. “Given the numbers of Canadians who take stress leave, career advancement is not necessarily the primary concern,” Jennifer Chandler, a Vancouver-based career counsellor tells me. Statistics Canada reports that one in five Canadians miss work due to stress each year. “Instead, consider what comes our way if we don’t take our mental and physical health seriously; as that will likely be the thing that stops career progression.” Taking leave might be career suicide if your employer operates in the Dark Ages, Chandler notes, but many more now recognize the need to protect employees’ mental health. So speak with your employer and let them know what’s causing the stress. Also, outline the steps you’ve already taken to lessen your stress. The more they understand your position, the less likely they’ll take your position with a grain of salt.

When pronouncing words of foreign origin—like croissant, say, or Chianti—should I use the appropriate accent?

ASK-MCARDLE-BADGEThe answer is a trifle complicated—but très fascinating. Pronunciation depends not only on where the word is borrowed from, but also on the citizenship of the person engaged in the borrowing. Let me demonstrate with “pasta.” The British pronounce it with a short “a” sound, akin to the word “trap,” says Charles Boberg, a professor of linguistics at McGill University. Americans, on the other hand, use a longer “ah” sound. “For Americans, if it’s foreign, it gets pronounced with vowel sounds closer to Spanish than those of English.”Canadians have adopted the American “ah” for words like macho, taco and lasagna where we once employed an “a” as stiff as a Brit’s upper lip. Yet when it comes to pasta, Canada remains a British colony. “Most Canadians still say ‘pass-ta’ whereas almost all Americans say ‘pah-sta’ and find the Canadian variant very strange indeed,” says Boberg. Both are correct. There are no rules for pronouncing imported words, only customs. “In general, preserving the foreign pronunciation is thought of as a sign of high education and cultural sophistication,” says Boberg, although he says there are crowds where over-pronunciation is considered pretentious. In Montreal, young anglophones employ French pronunciations of words “to signal their local status, in contrast to tourists or recently arrived English-speakers.” In short, don’t ask how to say a word, ask what it says about yourself.

What’s the difference between khakis and chinos?

True story: many Canadians pronounce it “car-key” (What-ho! More linguistic excitement!) based on a Second World War mishearing of British soldiers. English soldiers in India would dye their white uniforms a tawny brown so they would not look so dirty. They called the colour “khaki” after the local word for “dusty.” Chino, on the other hand, refers to a tightly woven cotton fabric made popular during the Spanish-American war. Both are now synonymous with many styles of casual dress pants, many of which come in colours that are not khaki and fabrics that are not chino.

Eight French words you’re probably pronouncing correctly

le gadget, le basket-ball, le weekend, le blue-jeans, le cash-flow, le sandwich, le meeting, le snaque barre


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