Let’s face it this is Australia. And in Australia if you want to be taken seriously by the population at large, you need to have an “ies” or “y” at the end of your profession. Firemen are “firies”, postmen are “posties”, electricians (lest you think the problem was with the “men” suffix) are “sparkies”. No matter how much you hate it, you can’t escape it. There are brickies, roofies, catch-all “tradies”, and of course “Aussies”.
So maybe what scientists need to do is embrace the wave. Physisties, and chemisties, and bioligisties could be the marketing bonanza that science has been waiting for. The fact that this doesn’t change anything that you do should not concern you. Just grit your teeth and ignore the assault on the English language too. Focus on the main game. Do this and you become on of them. Accepted. Part of the group. Nothing is too bad once you start down this road. Even “astronomies” can work; if you ignore the fact that it sounds like a candy-coated chocolate.
Speaking of which, scientists could then use “smarties” as a collective noun. Imagine the breakfast TV host discussing global warming and announcing that “We’ll just have to see what the smarties say about that.”
Really, scientists, you need to embrace the marketing vibe. Forget trying to educate people about what science really means. Forget trying to persuade with rational argument and logic and the scientific method. Go straight to the heart of things and go for branding.
You are no longer a scientist. You are a “sciencey” and proud of it. On talk-back radio your opinion is suddenly on a par with those who matter, the brickies and posties of this world. You are accepted and embraced. Your opinions matter not because of your learning, thought or endevour; but because you’re one of us. A group with a vowel at the end of your professional descriptor.
I’m astonished no one has worked this out before. All you need is that trailing “y” to gain acceptance and a certain cool. Well, to be honest, it works better for firies than brickies – just do an image search on Google to see the difference. But both get cred for being salt-of-the-earth types whose professional names are rejected by spell-checkers everywhere. Put a “y” on the end and you’re suddenly a friendly bloke with the sort of common-sense, it’s-bleeding-obvious opinions that lead to you being able to add the “y” to your name on the side of your van or ute.
So, scientists, stop wailing about education and trying to communicate. Start thinking about how you can add a “y” to your job description and gain some local credibility. You might think it’ll make you wishy-washy, but just take a look at the pics of tradies on the net to see it’s all about ripped abs and sweaty muscles. And women have a role too; yup, don’t worry about that, they get to hold power tools in suggestive poses – and let me tell you a test tube is just as easy to hold suggestively as a drill. You might have to get yourself a ute with a sticker pointing out that “real Aussies drive utes”, but that would give you the space to add in some more stickers: “Phycisties do it with hadrons”, “Chemisties do it periodically”, “Marine biologisties do it underwater” – really, it’s great stuff and your fellow motorists will just love you for it.
So there you have it. A whole new marketing and communications approach. C’mon you sciencies. You know you have it in you. Just give it a try and, next thing you know, you’ll be being asked for tips on the State of Origin.
And if you scientists need a model: Actuaries are, well, … actuaries. Lucky sods.
By the way, this article was prompted by 30 minutes listening to 2GB while getting my hair cut yesterday.