City Slicker Bias

City Slickers

Culture changes gradually because new experiences shape and sharpen our perspective on how to move forward.  So it is with language, and organizational culture.  To uncover the etymology of words is to discover how these words first populated our vocabulary, and to understand the subjective experience of how we choose to interpret these words today.

Word Language Original Translation Current Definition
Pagan Latin (paganus) Country Dweller Ungodly, cult
Villain Old French (villein) Villager, Peasant Unscrupulous person
Gauche French (gauche) Left Tacky
Sinister Italian (sinistra) Left Malicious


Millenia ago, power and influence (government and church) were surrounded by a population that protected its residence, which often laid at the core of (if not geographically exalted above) an urban center. Thus, those living on the “outskirts” of town were viewed as “lesser than.”

Words such as “pagan” and “villain” – as innocent as they may seem in their original definition – most definitely had a stigma attached to them, which is how they evolved into negative association words.  To broaden the immediate translation, they used to simply mean “those who did not have as much sophistication nor riches to live within the confines of the city.” These country dwellers/villagers/peasants were literally and figuratively the “outsiders.”  Life in a weakened position was looked down upon with disdain.

The Catholic church, historically speaking, had one way of doing things, and any deviation from that one way invited the Devil.

“Gauche” and “sinister” simply mean “left” – as in the opposite of “right,” even today in their languages of origin; however, they are also defined as negative attributes.  Yet, even until the 1960’s, Catholic nuns would take a ruler to smack the hands of young pupils if they were left-handed and attempted to write with their left hand.  The use of the left hand was considered a way of allowing the Devil to take possession of the body.  Students, thus, were forced to “convert” or suffer further physical and emotional punishment.

Organizational Implications

In today’s organizations, there are parallels which can be drawn from our past human behavior to compare with how headquarters (HQ) interacts and communicates with its regional offices.  Healthy organizations which aim for high Cultural Engagement and Global Strategies will consider the following questions:

  • How do we involve the virtual worker (the modern-day outsider) and those in distant, regional offices?
  • How do we effectively on-board experienced new-hires to learn HQ customs and inside language (e.g. acronyms)?
  • How do we set our talent up for success and shift away from a sink-or-swim mentality?
  • How do we help talent bring the best of what they offer every day to maximize productivity?

Those organizations which do not value and appreciate the best of what their talent in the hinterlands bring, will lose them to a richer kingdom.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein


Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a fairly ambidextrous Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners.  We increase retention.  Visit

© Rossina Gil, 2015



About Rossina

Thought Partner & Corporate Primatologist

Posted on May 19, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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