Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Yes, “Irregardless” is a Word. Of Course, Using it is Not a Good Idea Because...

The featured word in yesterday’s edition of Merriam Webster’s “Word of the day”—the most worthwhile of the various word-of-the-day emails that fly around in cyberspace—was “regardless.” I was immediately reminded of how indignantly some in my seminar audiences have reacted when, as a teaser or in a moment of frivolity, I have uttered the word “irregardless.” “V.J., there is no such word,” they say vehemently.

Well, of course “irregardless” is a word--after all, it is featured in all dictionaries. But, yes, it is considered “non-standard” and its usage not recommended. It’s best to reproduce the relevant comment from that “Word of the Day” email from Merriam Webster’s: "Irregardless" originated in dialectal American speech in the early 20th century, and usage commentators have been decrying it since the 1920s, often declaring "there is no such word." "Irregardless" does exist, of course, but it tends to be used primarily in speech and it is still considered nonstandard. "Regardless" is greatly preferred.

Summing up: Yes, “irregardless” is a word but using it is not at all a good idea because first, it is non-standard, and second, its use will provoke angry glares from many in your audience--not in your interest if you want to be endearing.

© Copyright 2011 V. J. Singal

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Common Mistake by Caucasian/ Other Light Skinned Men When Selecting a Tie: The Perils of an Attire with Contrast that Far Exceeds That of Face

The problem, stated perhaps much too cryptically in the above title, is best explained by the first of the two video clips at the bottom of this post. And let’s begin by describing the subject in the video, who happens to be Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. He has what experts call a “low-contrast face,” as do all men who have a very light skin and possess blonde/very light brown hair or no hair at all. [As a corollary, if Erdogan had lots of brown hair, his would be a “medium-contrast” face, and if he had lots of black hair, the term to describe his natural features above the neck would be “high contrast,” as is the case with most young Chinese males.]

Now let’s turn to Erdogan’s attire in the first clip. The clothes present a very high contrast, thanks to the design of the tie, what with its alternating (and bold!) black and white stripes. The result: an attire that easily dominates the rest of him, so much so that his face--which is what ultimately should attract and hold the observer’s eye--retreats into the background, almost falling off the picture. Why is this happening? Because, with the “center of gravity” of Erdogan’s overall appearance having been lowered to a spot below the neck, the observer’s gaze too is forcibly pulled down, to his chest area! It’s extremely important to note that Erdogan would have had a similar problem of the face being overwhelmed by a high contrast attire if he had worn a plain tie but one that contrasted very strongly with the rest of his clothes--for instance, a bright red tie, a white shirt, and a very dark jacket.

Let us now click on the second video clip. Notice that this time, as you look at him, your gaze is NOT pulled down below the neck. In fact, the glow emanating from his face is heightened thanks to the appropriateness of his attire. Yes, his tie-shirt-jacket combination does have an inbuilt contrast but the level is low, matching in intensity the low contrast of his face. You might well ask, what if Erdogan had swung to the other extreme, donning an attire with absolutely no contrast, such as a light blue shirt, light blue tie, and light blue jacket? Well, that’s not a good idea either because such an attire, while not pulling down the center of gravity from his face, would look boring and unimaginative and fail to add to the glow from his face. The unfavorable impression that results from a timid, ultra-low contrast attire will be the subject of a later blog.

The key lesson in all this: when choosing an attire, remember the overall objective, which is to heighten the glow from you face and thus hold the observer’s attention to it. The next time you step into an apparel store to buy a new tie, do not be seduced by a tie’s intrinsic beauty.

© Copyright 2011 V. J. Singal
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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Vocabulary Enhancement Words: New Edition of “Words of the Month”

The latest edition of “Words of the Month,” my free vocabulary enrichment feature, has been online since the middle of this month. The six 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. machismo
2. effrontery
3. conduit
4. imperial
5. sclerotic
6. timber

Here are extracts from some of my favorite examples, all carefully designed to help you expand your vocabulary:

-- (with reference to Putin being promoted as a he-man--riding a horse bare-chested, wrestling with a tiger…) the fact that Russians enjoy brandishing the machismo element in their leader suggests an almost primitive zeitgeist

-- VW’s CEO hoping that American men will be attracted by the new Beetle’s machismo-oozing front

-- someone wondering whether China is pursuing its massive military buildup out of some national machismo

-- while discussing how organizations can raise their probability of success, the famous Christine Lagarde talking about the perils of unrestrained machismo in the meeting room

-- I believe her fetish for eating raw eggs is a result of her health-extremist machismo

-- some of the other non-phallic symbols of machismo: the late John Wayne, a bushy mustache, the Super Bowl, a really stiff drink…

-- several of the movie characters portrayed by the late actor Burt Lancaster seemed to exude machismo

-- an example of political correctness run amok: some regarding the mention of Santa Claus and Christmas as “cultural effrontery

-- during an address by President Obama to a joint session of Congress, South Carolina's Joe Wilson having the effrontery to shout out “You lie”

-- our former employee, who has less than a year’s worth of work experience, now has the effrontery to hang out a shingle calling herself a “business consultant”

-- to prevent school shooting rampages, campus police must talk to students and thus become “conduits for information,” says a Princeton University expert

-- a sales broker becoming a conduit for illicit payments from a U.S. manufacturer seeking lucrative contracts in Asia

-- the “all managers lunch” held every Friday in the cafeteria has become a conduit for ideas, even jokes, to travel across all departments within the company

-- Walgreens and other drugstore chains pushing their private brands in competition with imperial brands such as Gillette and Colgate-Palmolive

-- people in some foreign countries resentful of what they describe as “the imperialism of American pop culture”

-- the imperial manner of Gen. Douglas MacArthur; some of the speeches delivered by U.S. presidents being in a highly imperial setting, such as…..

-- amid the controversy stirred by such U.S. actions as the invasion of Iraq and the secret military action conducted deep inside Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden, critics saying that the U.S. is acting imperially or that such actions demonstrate the “imperialist agenda” or the “imperialist designs” of the world’s only superpower

-- the sclerotic regimes in Syria and Yemen; the widespread corruption and sclerotic leadership at the helm in several Asian and African nations

-- with reference to the inability of lawmakers in Washington D.C. to reach a compromise on vital issues, this author saying: “The U.S. is suffering from acute political sclerosis

-- responding to calls for more regulation in his industry, a CEO saying “That would be an open invitation to business sclerosis!”

-- then-Prime Minister Tony Blair warning European nations to shed their sclerotic working practices or risk obliteration by China and India

-- a new managers exclaiming in frustration: “This pace is so rigidified, so sclerotic! People are unbelievably content with the way things are.”

-- the sexual assault charges in NY against Dominique Strauss-Kahn derailing the political career of someone who had been widely hailed in France as presidential timber

-- I agree the Joel is a great quarterback, but, unlike you, I do no think he is NFL timber

-- ever since Marilyn joined the company as marketing manager, she’s being talked up as top executive timber

-- I just hope when our highly regarded CEO, Rob, retires in a couple of years, the board of directors can find someone of his timber to run this behemoth of a company

-- Ethan’s recent actions clearly show that he is top leadership timber

-- the way our summer intern Jessica has... successfully handled even some of our most recalcitrant employees proves she is definitely managerial timber

© Copyright 2011 V. J. Singal

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Inspiring Words As Well as a Reminder from Bob Schieffer For Anyone Aspiring to be a Great Communicator

While delivering an encomium for the late Andy Rooney during last Sunday’s edition of “Face the Nation,” CBS’s Bob Schieffer said something that should touch a nerve in everyone who is striving to be great communicator (and who, by definition, are the target of this blog). He reminded us that the English language is a limitless reservoir which each and every one of us can easily tap into at will, to affect, stir, and touch other people.

The essence of Shieffer’s message is that by using the vast potential of the English language, and by deploying words with vigor and imagination, each of us can harness his or her own potential to become a powerful communicator.

Well worth 22 seconds of your time to watch the video clip below.

© Copyright 2011 V. J. Singal
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