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:


-- 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


-- 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


-- 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


-- 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  (

-- 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.”]


-- 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


-- 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