Monday, December 30, 2013

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

The latest edition of Words of the Month,” my free vocabulary enrichment feature, has been online for about ten days. 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. nonpareil
2. quotidian
3. stultify
4. diffident
5. steeliness
6. ignominy

Here are extracts from some of my favorite examples, all carefully designed to help you implant the featured word into your conversational vocabulary and use it with confidence:

nonpareil

-- Nelson Mandela’s death setting off a torrent of unparalleled tributes, with Time’s former Managing Editor described him as “the purest hero on the planet”--the implication: that Mandela was a leader nonpareil

-- software issues that no one else can solve end up in Frank’s lap—the guy is a nonpareil

-- Toyota, a nonpareil manufacturer of high quality automobiles

-- the dishes prepared by the chef here are nonpareil; someone whose problem solving skills are nonpareil; describing a person as “a salesperson nonpareil

-- Thomas Keller, a chef nonpareil; film directors who are described by top movie critics as nonpareils: Scorsese, Spielberg, Coen Brothers…

-- Tiger Woods who, for many years, was a golfer nonpareil or a nonpareil in the world of golf

quotidian

-- Obama’s shaking hands with Raúl Castro at the Nelson Mandela funeral was no quotidian handshake, it being only the second time since the Cuban Revolution of 1958 that the presidents of the two nations had gotten to shake hands

-- when I called her, she responded by giving me a litany of the usual, mundane, quotidian goings-on—nothing important or exciting

-- Alice is an exceptional florist—she creates great arrangements using the most ordinary and quotidian materials to complement the flowers

-- most of my day gets consumed in the quotidian routine, such as answering the phone, responding to emails…; one’s long, quotidian commute; looking for an escape from your quotidian day-to-day life

-- a candidate for political office in New Delhi winning by running on such quotidian issues as availability of clean drinking water and easing traffic bottlenecks

stultify

-- spending the Christmas holidays in a stultified state, lying on a couch all day and watching inane movies

-- yes, it has been a very successful year, but we cannot afford to sit back in satiated, stultifying contentment—the competition is constantly at our heels; I’ve supported each one of Brad’s past proposals, but not this latest one—I am not going to stultify myself by endorsing it

-- one of the biggest presentation killers is the absence of vocal variety because an unvarying voice stultifies listeners

-- efforts to eradicate identity theft being stultified by perpetrators’ ability to keep inventing new means of stealing…; the stultifying prose in an unimaginatively written procedure manual; singer Johnny Cash’s boyhood being spent under the stultifying fear of his hot-tempered father

-- the stultifying notion of what a woman may or may not do in some societies, as was the case in Afghanistan under Taliban rule; the stultifying effects of economic stagnation; somebody’s stultifying and intellectually suffocating environment

-- the stultification of people’s talents and energies in North Korea; India’s massive and stultifying bureaucracy

diffident

-- when delivering a presentation, one tactic to help nullify diffidence at the very get-go is to “visually stroke” everyone in the audience—for a brief discussion, click here and then scroll down to the third bullet  (http://www.verbalenergy.com/speaking.html)

-- now, when it’s time to take our objections to management, I find our manager has suddenly become diffident—this is really irritating

-- Transocean hiring this author to coach a top-notch engineer who was too diffident to assert himself during meetings, especially when it was time to challenge somebody’s (dumb) proposal

-- a presenter who is free from diffidence and gives a polished performance during a grueling Q&A; looking nervous and diffident as he got up to make his first ever speech to a large audience

-- in one of the U.N.’s darkest hours, a large U.N. contingent of Dutch troops looking on diffidently as Serb soldiers massacred 8,000 Bosnian Muslim refugees in the so-called “U.N. Protected” town of Srebrenica

-- in an interview on the first anniversary of 9/11, then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice revealing that when it first became apparent that the perpetrator of those attacks was al Qaeda, and that a U.S. military venture in Afghanistan might be necessary, her team was initially filled with diffidence [Rice’s precise words: “We looked at a map, and the color just fell from our faces as that country’s remoteness, hostile terrain, and history of reverses for foreign armies, including the British and the Soviet Union, sank in.”]

steeliness

-- in their tributes to the late Nelson Mandela, many of his admirers using the adjective “steely”; when it comes time to making really tough business decisions, few can measure up to Toni—there’s a certain steeliness to her decisions

-- I am really surprised that this conference went off so well—I had actually steeled myself for the worst because several crucial pieces were not in place

-- Tim is an exceptionally resolute kind of guy—he possesses a steely determination

-- a steely voice or tone; a steely stare; somebody who is under fire steeling herself for even more criticism

-- famous American military commander “Black Jack” Pershing’s steeliness when dealing with his soldiers’ hardships during WWI partly explained by his own personal loss—the general’s wife and three daughters were burned to death in a house fire just a few years earlier

ignominy

-- unlike American culture where it’s a badge of honor if your first one or two attempts at entrepreneurship are not successful, in some societies if your start-up never takes off, you are branded an ignominious failure

-- making a change now would be pretty humiliating and ignominious for Ben

-- talking about his nationally popular seminar “Some Simple Verbal and Nonverbal Skills for Creating a Highly Favorable First Impression,” this author saying: “Some of the content is born of the many mistakes, the many ignominies I suffered during the late 1970s and early 1980s, when I was still a recent import into the U.S., and…”

-- the gratification of seeing Wall Street crooks suffer the ignominy of being in handcuffs; several of Illinois’s recent governors being convicted of high corruption and ignominiously sent off to prison

-- in 1812, Napolean’s “Grand Armée” beating an ignominious retreat from Russia


© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Why Shakespeare? The Bard’s Relevance to our Life and Times

During the week of November 4, 2013, Charlie Rose’s guests included a panel comprising the director and actors from an all-female adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.” So, just as he has done in previous programs involving guests who have staged or acted in Shakespeare’s plays, Charlie asked this panel the question: “Why Shakespeare,” meaning why should we care or bother about Shakespeare, particularly his plays.

Here are the comments of two of those on the panel that night:

Phyllida Lloyd (who directed the production): “it never dies…applies to every moment of the present…you feel you are watching a play of the world around us.”

Frances Barber (who plays the title role of Julius Caesar): “I don’t think there is any emotion any human being has ever been able to experience that he (Shakespeare) hasn’t covered—love, broken heart, jealousy, ambition, political ambitions, thwarted ambition, old age, regret—there is nothing he has not covered in the best poetry ever.

In future blog posts, I hope to feature the responses of some other recent guests of Charlie Rose who have answered his customary question “Why Shakespeare?” in a meaningful and noteworthy manner. I believe these responses can help teachers of English literature draw greater enthusiasm, passion, and appreciation from students studying works of the Great Bard of Stratford.

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

How Life Magazine got the Rights to Zapruder Film: Finest Example of the Power of Politeness

I presume all of my readers have heard about the Zapruder film—the only movie that captured the precise moment when President Kennedy was fatally struck in the head by a bullet. [Abraham Zapruder, a Dallas businessman and a passionate Kennedy supporter, happened to be filming the presidential limousine from up close with his 8 mm movie camera when Oswald did his evil deed.]  Well, how Life magazine got the complete rights to that precious Zapruder film is a fascinating story and a powerful testament to the power of smiling and the power of being polite.  Here is a summary of what was narrated to CBS’s Bob Schieffer by former Life editor Dick Stolley on the November 3, 2013, edition of “Face the Nation.”

On the morning of the Nov. 22 assassination, Stolley was in Los Angeles. At the directions of his superiors, he immediately flew to Dallas; learned from others about Abraham Zapruder as being “the guy with a movie camera in Daley Plaza”; and met with the latter the following morning. After looking at the film in the company of two secret service agents, Stolley bought print rights for $50,000 and sent the film to Life’s head quarters in New York.

At the direction of his superiors, Stolley revisited Zapruder two days later, this time to buy complete rights for $150,000.  After the deal was done, as Stolley was speaking with one of Zapruder’s partners to get some more details, that associate of Zapruder interjected: “Do you know why you got that film?” Stolley replied “What do you mean—money?” The partner then repeated his question, saying “Do you know why you got it (i.e., the rights) and not those other people out in the hall?” When Stolley responded “I have no idea,” the partner said “Because you were a gentleman!”

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Because of a Poor Choice of Words, Guest on the “Diane Rehm Show” Came Across as a Scold

Avoid using the phrase “as I told you…” unless you absolutely must. Why? Because, unless the words are accompanied by friendly and pleasing nonverbals, you can come across like a scold!  Here is a specific example:

During the October 1, 2013, edition of the “Diane Rehm Show,” which was about the shrinking population of the monarch butterfly, as guest panelist Tamie DeWitt (an invertebrate biologist and a “monarch expert”) was explaining how her team catches monarchs, she added: “It’s a lot easier than you think because as I told you before, these monarchs are very focused on getting to Mexico.” [This sentence occurs at 11:13:15 in the transcript.]

Now, I have no doubt that Tamie DeWitt is as endearing and pleasing a personality as is the subject of her pursuits--i.e., monarch butterflies--and I am sure she meant to respond in a most friendly and pleasing manner. But the words “as I told you before,” compounded by her relatively strong voice and rapid speech, made Ms. DeWitt sound like a scold. To us radio listeners, who couldn’t see any disarming or mitigating facial expression and other body language (if there were any), she came across—at that precise moment—as one who was admonishing or at least mildly reprimanding the person asking the questions, host Diane Rehm.

So, how else could Ms. DeWitt have worded her response? Well, how about something like this: “As I was saying earlier…” or “As I indicated earlier….” In some situations, one could use an even humbler alternative: “As I was suggesting earlier...”

Bottom line: Unless you are using appropriately friendly and endearing body language or you really mean to chide someone (or express annoyance or irritation), it’s best to avoid using the word “told” as in “As I told you….”

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

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 for about ten days. 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. dilatory
2. ad hominem
3. malevolent
4. countenance
5. impracticable
6. de minimis

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Visual, Evocative Expression to Emphasize Something: Blazing Across the Midnight Sky; Getting Chalk Dust on My Cleats!

Here are some recent examples of articulate Americans using a vivid, evocative expression while emphasizing something and thus making their assertion indelible--examples which, I hope, will inspire the rest of us into similarly imaginative use of the language, especially when we are trying to break through the clutter.

  • When asked about the likely fallout of the Trayvon Martin verdict (in which George Zimmerman was acquitted), Colin Powell telling CBS’s “Face the Nation” this past August: “…I don’t know if it’ll have staying power. These cases come along and blaze across the midnight sky and then, after a period of time, they are forgotten.”

  • In the wake of the Snowden revelations and the subsequent harsh spotlight on the NSA, Gen. Michael Hayden, former CIA Director, telling Charlie Rose: “Tell me the box (that) I can operate in…I’m going to places at the very edge of the box, I’m going to be very aggressive--I’ll be so close to the outer bounds and markers that I’ll get chalk dust on my cleats.”  [Background: Referring to the inevitable tension between the “NSA wanting to keep everything secret, and the citizenry wanting to know and understand what they (the security agencies) are doing,” Hayden told Charlie Rose: “So, you the American people, through your elected reps, give me the field of play and I’ll play very aggressively in it. As long as you understand what risks you are embracing by keeping me and my colleagues in this box, we are good to go.”]

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

Monday, September 30, 2013

Mispronunciation of “Imbroglio” by Leading Light of the Media David Brooks

First, my customary declaration for posts on “mispronounced words”: The objective is NOT to denigrate or ridicule someone. Instead, I feature such posts in the belief that if a highly educated person is mispronouncing a particular word, there is a high probability that at least a few of my blog readers are making the same error. In other words, these posts are meant to serve as “pronunciation alerts!” And the reason why I name the radio or TV program and identify the speaker is solely to make this feature credible.

This past weekend, while watching the Friday, September 20, 2013, edition of PBS’s “NewsHour,” I was disappointed to hear David Brooks of the New York Times--one of my favorite political commentators--pronounce imbroglio just as it is spelt, i.e., [im-brohg-lee-oh].  The correct pronunciation is [im-broh-lee-oh].  The g is silent.

David Brooks is a much respected columnist and a frequent guest on high-profile shows such as “Charlie Rose” and “Meet the Press.” You can bet he regularly hobnobs with America’s most articulate--has probably been doing so for decades!  And imbroglio is not one of those rarely encountered words. So, for Brooks to make this egregious pronunciation error suggests a certain laxity on his part…a measure of insouciance. Unacceptable!

The most lamentable aspect of the above is that David Brooks will probably continue to mispronounce imbroglio for years to come! Why? Because my research indicates that when someone utters a glaring mispronunciation, no friends or acquaintances will point out the error to him or her, fearing that the correction will be viewed as an unfriendly, an unwelcome, even a hostile act.

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

Sunday, September 15, 2013

“Serendipitous Tragedy” – Kenneth Feinberg’s Oxymoron on NPR This Morning

If you heard the “Sunday Conversation” feature on this morning’s NPR “Weekend Edition,” you were probably as taken aback as I was by the extremely articulate and well-spoken Kenneth Feinberg’s erroneous choice of words toward the very end of the interview, when he referred to recent American tragedies such as Sept. 11, Virginia Tech, Aurora (Colorado), and the Boston Marathon bombings as “serendipitous.” 

The adjective serendipitous is inapplicable when describing those horrendous and deeply unsettling events because it strictly refers to something that happened or was discovered by chance in a happy or beneficial or agreeable way. Serendipitous is not one of those descriptors that are packed with multiple or ambiguous senses—words such as fulsome.

BTW, I am an admirer of Mr. Feinberg. For instance, while profiling the word “stolid” in the March/April 2013 edition of my “Words of the Month,” I wrote the following:
  
·        Kenneth Feinberg, who has become America’s go-to guy for administering victim assistance funds (including the one just set up for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings) partly because of his stolid disposition--a personal quality that is essential for the fair and dispassionate handling of claimants whose stories are brimming with intense pain and suffering


© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Answer to the Quick Quiz of Yesterday; Why Obama’s Use of “A Shot Across the Bow” was Incorrect

To make sense of this post, you need to first read the previous one, which asks why was President Obama wrong in his use of the idiom “a shot across the bow” with reference to his intended action against Syria.

“A shot across the bow” is meant to serve as a warning--it is an action or gesture that is intended to make the other side desist from a course of action but is not something that inflicts harm.  Literally, it is when the cannonball sails over the enemy ship and falls into the water, as per design, and does not actually hit the vessel. Well, in the case of Syria, the intended U.S. action will not be a mere warning but an attack that will take out several of that nation’s military assets.

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Quick Quiz: What’s Wrong With POTUS's Use of the Idiom “A Shot Across the Bow” in the Context of the Proposed Military Strike on Syria?

Earlier this week, while talking about his intent to take military action against Syria in response to that nation’s recent use of chemical weapons, POTUS (i.e., Barack Obama) told PBS interviewers Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff: “…in a clear and decisive but very limited way, we will send a shot across the bow...”

Keeping in view that the intended U.S. action will be, at the minimum, the firing of cruise missiles to destroy several Syrian military sites, Obama’s above statement is a misapplication of the idiomatic expression “shot across the bow.” Do you know why? 

Tune in to this blog tomorrow for the answer.

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

Friday, August 30, 2013

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 for about ten days. 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. munificent
2. contretemps
3. narcissism
4. apartheid
5. languid
6. dissemble

Sunday, August 18, 2013

An Encomium for a “People Person”; Simply Worded Praise that is Perhaps One of the Most Elegant, Imaginative, and Indelible You've Ever Heard!

Among the outpouring of tribute for William H. Gray III, the famous pastor and lawmaker from Philadelphia who died last month, was this elegant and imaginatively worded statement from the current mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter:

“He knew guys on the corner, and he knew Nelson Mandela and everyone in between.”

I believe the above sentence, short and simply worded and yet so evocative and stirring, can serve as a model or prototype for praising someone who is the quintessential “people person,” i.e., someone who has made an effort to connect--and succeeded in doing so--with just about every human he or she has encountered, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status.

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

Monday, July 29, 2013

Answer to the Quick Quiz of Yesterday; Using the Object Pronoun When He Should Have Used the Subject Pronoun

To make sense of this post, you need to first read the previous one, which asks you to identify an egregious grammatical error by a TV news reporter.

The blunder by Zeleny lies in his using the object pronoun “her” instead of the subject pronoun “she” when he utters the words “her and her husband” while referring to Gabby Giffords. In other words, the correct English would have been “she and her husband.”

As I said yesterday, I find it inconceivable that somebody who, until recently, was the national political correspondent for the prestigious New York Times could commit such a grave violation of the most basic grammar rules. It is tantamount to murdering the English language. If only we could prosecute reporters / correspondents of major publications and news channels for such crimes.

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Quick Quiz: Can You Identify the Egregious Grammatical Error in the Video Clip?

This is a really easy one, hence the target audience is those who are “grammatically challenged.”

In the 47-second video clip below, taken from the July 5 edition of “Washington Week in Review,” there is an egregious and unforgivable grammatical error uttered by ABC News Senior Washington Correspondent Jeff Zeleny, as he responds to host Gwen Ifill’s lament that gun control is not going anywhere despite all the “door-to-door campaigning by the weeping parents from Newtown.” Can you identify the blunder?  I say “unforgivable” because, until this past January, Zeleny was the national political correspondent for the prestigious New York Times!

[For readers from foreign countries: Gabby Giffords--whose name you’ll hear in Zeleny’s response--is the Congresswoman from Arizona who was shot in the head outside a supermarket in January 2011.]

Tune in to this blog tomorrow for the answer.

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

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 early 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. desultory
2. lassitude
3. paragon
4. inequity
5. ersatz
6. quixotic

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Male Attire: A Tip for Chinese (and other Similarly Light-skinned Men with Black Hair) on How to Look Sharp


video




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This post is especially directed at people of Chinese origin, and for two reasons:
(i) they now constitute a significant % of this blog’s readership.
(ii) As I learned recently from the BBC, Chinese men preponderantly dye their hair black regardless of age. According to that news report, the dyeing of hair in China is close to being mandatory, with the government picking up the cost of hair color etc. for Party officials.

Recall my previous posts on attire, especially those of November 27, 2011, and November 28, 2012), in which I’ve written about the “principle of matching contrasts,” according to which men and women look their best when the contrast of their clothes matches the level of contrast of their face. Thus, in the case of Chinese men, who invariably have a high contrast face thanks to their very light complexion and lots of black hair, the wearing of high contrast clothes will sharply enhance their appearance and heighten the glow from their face. [Example of high contrast attire: a dark jacket, white shirt, and a bright tie that is strikingly different in color to both the jacket and shirt.]
A low to medium contrast attire, on the other hand, will diminish their visage and subdues the glow from their face. Yet, from recent news footage on PBS and elsewhere, I find even highly educated and well dressed Chinese, Korean, and other fair skinned East/ SE Asian men donning clothes whose contrast is drab, cheerless, and unimaginative.

My point is best illustrated by the two video clips. In the first one, you see a North Korean news announcer who has a very high contrast face, as do most Chinese men. But his attire? A bit too subdued because of the tie being of hues similar to those of his jacket. A bright tie, contrasting strongly with both the jacket and shirt, would have been far more flattering.

Same story for the second clip. With barely a couple of exceptions (and on of those exceptions is, yes, China’s newly elected leader!) all of the men are wearing clothes that are dull, timid, and insipid.  In short, the attire of these other dignitaries does not do justice to their high contrast faces.

Within a few weeks, I hope to post a video clip showing a Chinese man with an attire that is exemplary, i.e., that has an appropriately high-contrast.


© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal


Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Tense “Fiscal Cliff” Negotiations last December-end: “Congress Could Teach Shakespeare Something About…"

Remember all that nationwide anxiety, consternation, and indignation during the last few days of 2012, when Congressional leaders and the White House were locked in protracted talks to avoid the much-feared Dec. 31 “fiscal cliff,” and an agreement was reached only in the wee hours of January 1?

Well, while watching something on PBS earlier today, I learned that because that Dec. 31 deal was only partial, a couple more financial deadlines are just around the corner. So, you can bet that given the internecine feuding within the Republican Party, there will be a repeat of last year’s posturing and attendant cliffhangers, once again enervating and taxing the patience of all the stakeholders--American business, the nation as a whole, and the international financial community at large.

Thinking about all the drama that is about to unfold for news junkies like me, I was reminded of a humorous comment made by S&P Capital IQ’s Chief Equity Strategist Sam Stovall during the Dec. 31, 2012, edition of PBS’s “NBR.” Voicing the public’s acute frustration at there not having been a decision as late as 5 p.m. that day, Stovall remarked: “It certainly confirms what I’ve always thought—that Congress could teach Shakespeare something about drama.”

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Upcoming Seminar that is Open to the Public and FREE!

I will present “Some Simple Verbal and Nonverbal Skills for Creating a Highly Favorable First Impression” -- perhaps one of the two most popular topics in my repertoire --  at the Epiphany Church in Katy this coming Monday (July 1) evening.  Call me at 281-463-2500 if interested. Copies of “The Articulate Professional – 3rd Edition” will be available at a deep discount.

Friday, May 31, 2013

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 May 18. 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. dissolute
2. explicate
3. Orwellian
4. Machiavellian
5. cacophonous
6. stolid

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Seminar on “How to Conquer Rambling and Emphasize Your Point in Just Three Sentences!”

I am still exhilarated by the extremely favorable audience response to my above seminar presented ten days ago at the Toastmasters District 56 Spring Conference held at the South Shore Harbor Resort in League City, about 30 miles south of Houston. Even though several of the attendees did not have a copy of the handout (the audience size far exceeded the District’s expectations), exactly 85% of those who turned in evaluations rated it “excellent.”

I developed this seminar around the year 2000, after months of frantic research inspired by some shocking episodes on the “Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser” television show. In two editions of that preeminent program that were just a few weeks apart, I saw the main guests--both of whom were among corporate America’s most prominent CEOs--ramble and thus cut a sorry figure. During the past dozen years, “how to conquer rambling” has consistently been one of the two most popular topics in my repertoire of short, stand-alone seminars. In 2008, it drew an audience of 600 project managers at the PMI Global Congress—North America held in Denver.

Feel free to call me at 281-463-2500 if you’d like to explore the idea of having me present it at one of your upcoming events.

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Top Tips for Networking Anywhere – Not Just at the OTC

I believe you’ll find the eight tips published last week in the Houston Business Journal really worthwhile. Especially notable: Tips 5, 6, and 7.


© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Men Diminishing Women, albeit Unwittingly—Even You, Barack Obama? Answer to the Quick Quiz of Yesterday

To make sense of this post, you need to first read the previous one, which asks you to identify the communication screw-up by President Obama in a 45-second video clip.

Obama’s mistake is the disrespect he metes out to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, unwittingly of course. Take another listen to that video clip and note that Obama refers to the other three leaders in Congress--all of whom are men and one of whom (Mitch McConnell) is a “minority leader,” as is Nancy Pelosi--by their official titles. Thus, while thanking them, the president utters “the Speaker of the House”…“Democratic Leader Harry Reid”…and “Republican Leader Mitch McConnell” respectively. But the woman among them is referred to simply as “Nancy Pelosi” instead of “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi” or “Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.”

As noted in previous posts under the labels “diminution of women…” and “men diminishing women…,” such displays of disrespect for female professionals are, sadly, all too common, thanks to the way we men are hardwired. A classic example of this sort of invidiousness, one which I never fail to cite in my seminars on “first impression” and “diminishers,” involves George Stephanopoulos’s interview of four members of the 9-11 Commission. On that occasion, the supposedly urbane and suave Stephanopoulos repeatedly diminished the only woman among them--former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick. Click here to revisit that post.

Sure, there are preemptive steps men can and should take to avoid such accidental slighting of female professionals during meetings, presentations, and the like, and I discuss them in my above mentioned seminars.

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

Monday, April 29, 2013

Quick Quiz: Identify the Communication Blunder in the Video Clip

The 45-second video clip below is an excerpt from President Obama’s short speech delivered during the “Inaugural Luncheon” held in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall on January 21—the day of his second inauguration.

We come in here just as he has finished thanking Vice President Biden and his wife, and is now about to thank a bunch of other people including members of his cabinet and Congressional leaders. Can you identify the communication slip-up? And no, I am NOT referring to some fine point of grammar.

Tune in to this blog tomorrow for the answer.

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Shakespeare’s Enormous and Vibrant Literary Legacy

I have long known that William Shakespeare has been, by far, the single biggest contributor of phrases and sayings to the English language. But, while listening to this past Tuesday’s edition of Garrison Keillor’s “Writer’s Almanac,” I was a bit surprised to learn that several of the idioms that are in my everyday lexicon originated from the Bard. They include, for instance, “Greek to me,” “dead as a doornail,” “a wild goose chase,” “night owl,” and “a fool’s paradise.”  

Keillor also pointed out that the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) credits Shakespeare with having coined some 3,000 new words!  For the complete April 23 segment of “Writer’s Almanac,” click here: http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2013/04/23

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

Friday, April 12, 2013

For Gray-Haired Men: Selecting a Tie That Matches Color of Hair and then Anchoring Rest of Attire Around It

This is really a follow-up to my post of Nov. 28 last year, when I featured a video clip of Sen. Bob Corker looking sharp, thanks to his donning a tie that matched his silver-gray hair and then anchoring the rest of the attire around that tie. That video clip is the first of the two below.

The video clip at the very bottom is new. Taken from a recent edition of PBS NewsHour, my favorite daily news program, it shows correspondent Raphael Pi Roman (interviewing famous Cuban dissident Yoani Sanchez) doing an even better job than Corker and therefore looking more appealing. To elaborate: While Roman, too, has selected a tie that somewhat matches the color of his hair, the rest of his attire presents a contrast that is somewhere between low and medium, as it should be. For his bright white shirt and silver-gray tie, Corker’s jacket is a bit too dark, thus slightly overwhelming his low contrast face.

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

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Saturday, March 30, 2013

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 for about ten days. 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. leitmotif
2. Kafkaesque
3. accretion
4. specious
5. enfeebled
6. luminous




High-Impact Public Speaking: Approaching the Podium Not Ploddingly or Haltingly, but with Zeal and Determination

After Defense Secretary Chuck Hagle’s miserable performance during his Senate confirmation hearing, during which he often looked diffident and unsure, I was anxious to see what sort of impression he will create at his first news conference, especially during the opening moments. For instance, will he enter the room and walk toward the speaking platform with plodding and uncertain steps, or will he instead project zest and vigor?  Will his entrance into the room be halting and unsure, or will he manifest energy, enthusiasm, and conviction? 

Happily for this supporter of the new defense secretary, Hagle has not disappointed. Click on the 7-second video clip below, which is from his first news conference at the Pentagon, and note: (i) his brisk entrance through the door (presumably, he must have come down the corridor with face-paced steps), and (ii) how he exudes firmness and confidence as he walks up to the lectern and takes his place behind the mike with alacrity and a smile, as should any presenter.

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Using More Idioms and Colloquial Expressions to Make Your Communications More Interesting and Evocative—Action Item for Foreign-borns As Well As Those Who Manage or Lead Them

This morning, while listening to NPR’s “Morning Edition,” I was thrilled to learn that Christine Ammer has come out with an all-new edition of her book on American idioms and colloquial expressions--“The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms—Second Edition.”

I have possessed a copy of her first edition since 2002, during which time I must have consulted it hundreds of times. It comes in most handy when I am trying to spice up an email or other piece of writing, or an upcoming presentation, with an interesting expression whose meaning I am not 100% sure of. Of course, I also refer to it on those rare occasions when I hear an idiom or colloquial expression that I am not perfectly familiar with.

When I arrived in the U.S. in 1977 from Bombay, I already had a superior command of English because that was my primary language both at home and at work. Yet, I was not able to understand every expression uttered by my professors and fellow-students at Northwestern because American English teems with idioms and other expressions that are unique to this country. And for the same reason, whenever I spoke in class, I must have sounded so very austere, and formal, and alien not only because of my accent but because my speech was devoid of colloquial expressions.

Strongly recommended action items for both foreign-borns and those who manage or lead them:

1. For foreign-borns: From the preceding narrative, it should be obvious to every foreign-born employee that it is in their interest to acquire a good dictionary of American idiom and refer to it frequently. Remember, when trying to “connect” with a mainstream American instantly, it helps if your language is interesting, fun, and pleasing. Merely having the ability to speak English is not sufficient.

2. For managers/ supervisors of foreign-born employees: They, too, should posses such a dictionary and proudly display it on their office bookshelves, even if they are intimately familiar with the idioms commonly encountered in the American workplace,  Why? Because, by occasionally grabbing such a book and making at least a pretense of referring to it with enthusiasm, in full view of the others, they would inspire and encourage their foreign-born employees to acquire their own idiom dictionaries and use them frequently.

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Even You, the Princeton-and-Yale-Educated Sonia Sotomayor? A Most Glaring — and Unforgivable — Mispronunciation by a U.S. Supreme Court Justice

First, my customary declaration for posts on “mispronounced words”: The objective is NOT to denigrate or ridicule someone. Instead, I feature such posts in the belief that if a highly educated person is mispronouncing a particular word, there is an extremely high probability that at least a few of my blog readers are making the same error. In other words, these posts are meant to serve as “pronunciation alerts!

Now, click on the 30-second video clip below and note how U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor mispronounces the word chasm [as chaz-um] even though, just seconds earlier, PBS interviewer Gwen Ifill has pronounced it correctly [as kaz-um]. This is egregious! It is unforgivable, considering that chasm is far removed from the category of highfalutin, arcane, or grandiloquent words that were known to and used by only the late William F. Buckley. [Lest you think I am disparaging Mr. Buckley, please know that in my book “The Articulate Professional” I describe him as “a cerebral Olympian” and “a man of Olympian intellect.”]

A reminder why correct pronunciation matters: In the case of Supreme Court justices, you can automatically assume that they are highly educated, else they wouldn’t have made it to the nation’s highest court. [According to Wikipedia, Sonia Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton and has a J.D. from Yale Law School.] But, if you were to hear such a glaring mispronunciation from, say, a new acquaintance whose background you know not, you wouldn’t be faulted for assuming that the person is not very well educated or that he or she leads an insular life.

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal


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Thursday, January 31, 2013

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 for about ten days. 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. enfant terrible
2. sinecure
3. enervate
4. alchemist
5. pensive
6. granular

Here are extracts from some of my favorite examples, all carefully designed to help you implant the word into your conversational vocabulary and use it with confidence:

enfant terrible

-- with reference to the wholesale massacre of precious wildlife occurring in Africa and elsewhere thanks to China’s gluttonous demand for rare animal parts, this author expressing the hope that some Chinese Americans and other moralists will band together to become the enfants terribles of wildlife conservation

-- Martin, who is by far the youngest of our top management team, has really shaken up the establishment—one enfant terrible of a guy!

-- John McEnroe, once the enfant terrible of international tennis; Carlos Ghosn, the enfant terrible of the auto industry; Arnold Schonberg, regarded as the “arch rebel” and the enfant terrible of modern music; Iran’s Ahmadinejad seemingly relishing his role as an enfant terrible by frequently issuing shocking statements

-- movie director Peter Jackson of the “Lords of the Rings” trilogy fame being branded the enfant terrible of the movie industry, thanks to his extracting one-sided agreements from movie studios

-- Silicon Valley being densely populated with potential enfants terribles—entrepreneurs who have devised revolutionary approaches to deliver a particular product or service

sinecure

-- an ABC report indicating what a sinecure a Congressman’s job has become

-- Jim’s present assignment is a sinecure—it requires very little work and allows him time to play golf even on weekdays

-- Our company founder and CEO has bestowed this company sinecure on young Michael because of the latter’s gifts as an artist and writer

-- I wish I had famed film critic A.O. Scott’s job, where you make handsome money watching and critiquing a few movies a week—it would be a nice little sinecure

-- eagerly seeking a particular job that you believe will be a sinecure and will enable you to live the good life you have long sought

-- the corporate boardroom sinecures enjoyed by some, thanks to their glowing resumes, as in the case of Robert Rubin, former Goldman Sachs co-chair and U.S. treasury secretary, who was paid $150 million for….

-- referring to the fact that Robert McNamara was against the Vietnam War all along but did not speak out against it until the 1990s, a critical Sen. John Kerry saying: “Instead of speaking out when he should have, McNamara retreated to the sinecure of the World Bank” (where he was president from 1968-1981)

enervate

-- in a recent appearance on “Face the Nation,” Peggy Noonan referring to the ongoing series of “fiscal cliffs” or cliffhangers as “these dreadful, enervating dramas

-- In my previous job, the backbiting and the dog-eat-dog Machiavellian culture drained me of my enthusiasm and drive—it enervated me, to say the least

-- here in Houston, June, July, and August being the worst months for sightseeing because of the enervating heat and humidity

-- after two failed attempts, I am not sure if I can summon the enthusiasm for yet another go—a sense of enervation has come over me

-- all this leisure and luxury, plus an absence of any sort of purpose in life, is enervating him…he is on a moral decline; then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair warning European nations to wake up from their shallow and enervating lives or risk being obliterated by the stiff new competition from the likes of China and India

alchemist

-- Arthur Hiller, then-president of the Motion Picture Academy, saying: “What makes films the transcendent medium of expression is the alchemy of collaboration

-- remember, a really successful conference will not come about by some magic or alchemy—you better start planning for it right away

-- once a couch potato, he has now turned into a health and fitness nut, having alchemized his fear of falling ill into a firm determination

--  in an appearance on PBS “NewsHour,” Columbia Professor Klaus Lackner, a pioneer of the emerging “direct air capture of CO2” industry, speaking passionately about how his “commercially viable” technology can literally suck out all the surplus carbon dioxide that has been pumped into the earth’s atmosphere during the past 150 years, and thus alchemize the earth’s atmosphere into that which existed at the dawn of the industrial revolution
pensive

-- in the recent Time cover picture of President Obama, notice how the photographer, by deft use of lighting and position of the head, has made his subject appear deep in thought, looking pensive

-- someone who is normally pretty boisterous not asking any questions during a long meeting and, instead, sitting pensively

-- the pensive look in the large, brown eyes of my Labrador retriever; I couldn’t help staring at her because she looked so sad, and lonely—there was such an air of pensiveness about her

-- someone on his 80th birthday locked in a pensive mood, reflecting sadly about his many close friends who had died in their 30s and 40s

-- turning to a Rembrandt that depicts a seated, naked woman, the curator explaining the subject’s “beautiful, pensive expression” by pointing out that ….

-- in the movie “Chariots of Fire,” Vangelis’s music helping endow that opening scene of runners on a beach with an aura of pensiveness   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYJzcUvS_NU

granular

-- the filmmakers of the 2012 movie “Lincoln” went to extraordinary lengths to imbue the film with authenticity, displaying an obsession for detail at the most granular level

-- even on relatively minor assignments, my new boss Iris asks questions in a very specific and granular way

-- the top management has finally leveled with us and addressed the issue with granularity, giving us precise reasons behind their stunning decision

-- after a meeting with the CEO, an exasperated manager telling her colleague: “He is much too involved in the granularity…in the microscopic aspects of everything that’s going on”

-- before we begin the brainstorming, could someone please make the definition of the problem more concrete, more granular?

-- during a Congressional hearing involving a case of corporate malfeasance, an executive professing innocence, saying that he was operating at too high a level to be granularly involved in the alleged actions; police investigators grilling a suspect, demanding more granular information

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal