Thursday, June 30, 2011

Words to Describe the Grand Canyon: Going Beyond the Trite and the Banal

Ask anyone who has visited the Grand Canyon what they think about that great natural wonder of the world and, more often that not, his or her face will instantly light up and adjectives such as beautiful, awesome, great, extraordinary, wonderful, tremendous… will come out of that person’s mouth.

Well, I was at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim earlier this month and it occurred to me that you might be interested to know some of the words that flashed in my mind while undertaking three hikes during the day and a half I spent there in the company of my son. [As in the case of previous posts, I am assuming that you appreciate the power of words that are fresh, out-of-the ordinary, and evocative.] Rest assured, each of the terms below is in the conversational vocabulary of articulate Americans.

-- addictive (because one can’t get tired of taking in the sights)
-- stupefying
-- overwhelming
-- mesmerizing
-- spellbinding
-- stunning
-- a prodigious sight
-- indescribable
-- enthralling
-- ineffable
-- spectacular
-- ethereal
-- captivating
-- kaleidoscopic
-- spiritual, emotional, or a religious experience

And finally, in response to a question that I had had for over ten years -- “For most people, why does the Grand Canyon have a greater impact than any other natural feature on earth?” – I had the following epiphany in the late 1990s, just after a visit to the North Rim: “Looking down intently into that vast chasm of overpowering beauty and mystery, you get the sense that Mother Earth has opened her bosom and is whispering: 'Come, peer into me for this is where you are from.'

© Copyright 2011 V. J. Singal

The King James Bible: Source of Many of Today’s Phrases and Idiomatic Expressions

Earlier this week, while watching a segment about the King James Bible in the April 24, 2011, edition of “CBS Sunday Morning,” my favorite television program, I was surprised to learn that many of the phrases and idiomatic expressions that are alive and well in the English language of today originated in that seminal work. Here are some that were highlighted in that CBS program:

“…drop in the bucket…” – Isaiah 40:15

“…my cup runneth over” – Psalms 23:5

“…see eye to eye…” – Isaiah 52:8

“Fight the good fight…” – First Timothy 6:12

“…powers that be…” – Romans 13:11

“…root of the matter…” – Job 19:28

“…labour of love…” – Hebrews 6:10

“…there’s nothing new under the sun…” – Ecclesiastes 1:09

“…in the twinkling of an eye…” – Corinthians 15:52

“…pearls before swine…” – Matthews 7:6

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Building a Powerful Vocabulary: New Edition of “Words of the Month”

The latest edition of “Words of the Month,” my free vocabulary enhancement feature, has been online since the beginning of this month. Among the featured words, all of which lie within the conversational vocabulary of America’s most articulate (as is the case with all of the words featured in my book "The Articulate Professional -- 3rd Edition"):

1. statuesque
2. kaleidoscopic
3. paucity
4. wistful
5. attenuate

Here are extracts from some of my favorite examples:

-- a statuesque building in Houston: the 901-feet tall Williams Tower (formerly the Transco Tower)

-- in this picture showing our company’s top five execs, each of them looks statuesquely tall, and I suppose that is because of …

-- a dancer posing statuesquely; an example of a statuesque American actress: the six-feet tall…

-- given the kaleidoscope of shifting information, it’s hard to predict where the hurricane will make landfall

-- last night’s “Charlie Rose” was a kaleidoscope of currently controversial issues

-- kaleidoscopic fall colors; a folk dance becoming a kaleidoscope of colors

-- John Eliot Gardiner saying: “Beethoven’s music is so full of rhythm, and excitement, and kaleidoscopic changes of emotion

-- the fate of the first President Bush being a perfect example of the voting public’s capriciousness

-- I am pretty capricious when it comes to picking a route to go to work each morning

-- a capricious theater critic; a special attraction of the Seychelles—they are less prone to capricious weather

-- having wistful moments when you wish you had accepted that offer from IBM instead of…

-- I try to avoid thinking or speaking wistfully of the past because life is short and…

-- I kept staring at her because there was such an air of wistfulness about her

-- South Koreans musing wistfully that the two Koreas show no sign of unifying; the wistfulness in Boris Yeltsin’s comments made shortly after the failed Soviet coup

-- it appears that Osama bin Laden’s influence had not attenuated quite as much as….

-- frequent coffee breaks will attenuate the momentum (of the discussion)

-- attenuation of a manager’s autocratic style; hot peppers can attenuate hunger because they contain..; a vaccine that will attenuate the AIDS virus; the attenuated physique of an anorexic; gravel traps being used to attenuate the speed of a car

-- the vast wetlands surrounding New Orleans helping attenuate the destructive force of hurricanes

-- a paucity of strong leadership at the top; a disheartening paucity of creative thinking; blaming the setback on a paucity of knowledge and experience

-- an amazing paucity of information with regard to prevention of cancer

-- apparel shoppers disappointed by the paucity of exciting new designs; parents of school-age children complaining about the paucity of worthwhile programs on television

-- Japan being one of the world’s top five industrial powers despite its paucity of natural resources

© Copyright 2011 V. J. Singal

Sunday, June 26, 2011

What’s in a Name? Pronouncing Somebody’s Uncommon Name Correctly Is Your First Sign of Respect For That Person Plus Much More

The “name-botching” incident at Wimbledon last week when, in the middle of the match, German tennis star Julia Goerges lambasted the umpire for repeatedly mangling her last name, reminded me of an incident at a Toastmasters’ speech contest here in Houston some ten years ago. Hugh Vrsalovic, an accomplished speaker and my long-time friend, was one of the participants. When it was his turn to deliver a speech, here’s how the evening’s emcee (referred to as the “Toastmaster of the contest or event”) announced his name: “Our next contestant is Hugh V…R…S…” and then, after some further struggle, she came up with a badly mangled version of Hugh’s last name which, in actuality, takes only a few seconds to master, if you ask him. It is vruh-SAHL-uh-vik.]

Clearly, the contest Toastmaster had not done her homework. As any responsible emcee, she should have taken a few moments to familiarize herself with the names, speech titles, etc. before the event started. Sure, her blunder may have helped wipe off, for a second or two, the ever-pleasant expression on Hugh’s face, but the real damage was to her own reputation. She created a poor impression with that evening’s huge audience by demonstrating irresponsibility and a cavalier attitude.

If a new acquaintance’s name happens to be an uncommon one, then pronouncing it correctly (the same goes for spelling it, if and when writing them an email) is your first indication of respect for that person, provided you’ve had an opportunity to find out the correct pronunciation. It helps create a good first impression by signaling that you are meticulous, thorough, caring, thoughtful, urbane, and so on.

INTERVIEW CANDIDATES, please make a special note of the above.

© Copyright 2011 V. J. Singal