Thursday, December 31, 2015

“The New ‘Star Wars’ Movie was Planned like the Normandy Invasion”; “Being Beached on a Sludge Bank of Corporate Puff”--Visual, Evocative Expression to Emphasize Something

Here are some recent examples of articulate people 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.

  • During a discussion of the new “Star Wars” movie on the Dec. 22 edition of “The Diane Rehm Show,” film critic Kenneth Turan saying: “This is a landmark in commercial filmmaking. I mean, this thing was planned like the Normandy invasion, you know, from beginning to end, and it succeeded, just like the Normandy invasion did…” [Turan then goes on to agree with a caller who was disappointed with the film because “it’s a complete remake of the (1977 original) plot point by plot point; even some of the lines are the same…”]
 
  • During a discussion of Chipotle’s travails on the Dec. 8 edition of PBS’s “Nightly Business Report,” when brand expert Dean Crutchfield was asked what the company should do to repair the damage to its brand as a result of recurring outbreaks of food-borne illnesses, he said: “I haven’t seen enough to satisfy me regarding Chipotle’s response. I believe all channels of communication should be wide open. And the CEO should be speaking a lot more without being beached on a sludge bank of corporate puff. Basically, it’s about communicating to everybody in every way, from…” 
© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal

Monday, November 30, 2015

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

Have you looked at the latest edition of Words of the Month,” my free vocabulary enrichment feature, which has been online since Nov. 14? Here are 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. sub rosa
2. indolent
3. sentient
4. ecumenical
5. interminable
6. apex

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

“Campaigning Like She’s in Napoleon’s March on Moscow”; “Hillary Clinton’s Emails are Almost Like a Vampire”--Visual, Evocative Expression to Emphasize Something

Here are some recent examples of articulate people 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.

  • David Brooks saying on NBC “Meet the Press” (Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015) about Hillary Clinton who had been interviewed on the show just minutes earlier: “She was having a little bit more fun today. Sometimes she is campaigning like she’s in Napoleon’s march on Moscow, just like a trudge through the winter. (This morning) she was a little more upbeat, a little more fun…”  
 
  • Continuing with the subject of Hillary Clinton, here’s what California Gov. Jerry Brown said on “Meet the Press” about a month earlier (August 23) when asked what the former secretary of state should do about her pesky email issue: “This email thing, it has a kind of mystique to it. An email is just an utterance in digital form, but it has some kind of dark energy that gets everybody excited. So, it’s almost like a vampire—she’s going to have to find a stake and put it right through the heart of these emails in some way…”
© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

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

Have you looked at the latest edition of Words of the Month,” my free vocabulary enrichment feature, which has been online since mid-September? Here are 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. pugilist
2. frisson
3. putative
4. exaltation
5. resplendent
6. besmirch

 
 

Monday, September 28, 2015

No, You Do Not Get a Second Chance to Make a Good First Impression—Rick Perry Just Proved It!

This time around--his second quest for the Republican presidential nomination--Rick Perry was running a far better campaign than four years ago, say most political analysts. During every public appearance, he was well prepared and cogent. Yet, the former Texas governor was consistently registering close to 0% (yes, “zero percent”) in the polls, which is why he became the first of the sixteen or so major Republican White House aspirants to drop out.
 
The primary reason why Rick Perry failed to get any traction this time? Memories of his abysmal performance in 2011, especially his infamous “oops” moment during a debate, continued to linger. CNN’s Jeff Zeleny put it best: Appearing on “Washington Week in Review” a day after Perry’s withdrawal, Zeleny commented: “Perry was a much better candidate this time around, no question! He really studied the issues and things, but all of our impressions of Rick Perry are locked in from four years ago. Result: he was polling close to 0% and didn’t have money to pay even the light bill.”
 
© Copyright 2015 V.J. Singal
 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Even the Mighty and Omniscient Larry Fink has Feet of Clay!

I have long regarded Larry Fink as Mr. Omniscient! As many of my readers know, he is the co-founder and CEO of the highly respected corporation BlackRock which, at $4.8 trillion in assets under management, is the world’s largest multinational investment management firm. Given the sheer size and reach of BlackRock, I believe Mr. Fink, together with his top executive team, must be knowing anything and everything there is to know when it comes to investments, which translates to knowing everything significant occurring on our planet, hence his presumed omniscience! Not surprisingly, whenever the BlackRock CEO makes an appearance on “Charlie Rose,” which is alas much too infrequent, I hungrily lap up every syllable that he utters. Yes, there is gold in his words. Did you know that, late last month, the Chinese government picked his brain for possible solutions to get its economy--the world’s second largest--back on track? 

A marquee statement that contains an astonishingly poor choice of words: Larry Fink’s last appearance on “Charlie Rose” (February 22, 2015) helped me realize that the saying “No one is perfect: Everyone has feet of clay” even applies to demigods, people of Mr. Fink’s preeminence. Toward the end of the interview (at the 47-minute mark in the 54-minute program), Charlie Rose zeroed in on a (perhaps recent) marquee statement by the BlackRock CEO, even displaying it prominently on the television screen. It read “We are maniacal about driving high performance but we are also a family. Our clarity of purpose is crystal clear, has never changed, and never will. (The emphasis in red is mine, for reference later in this post.)  

[Larry Fink’s response to Charlie Rose’s next question “What’s the clarity of purpose?” is not relevant to this post, but it contained salutary advice for long-term investors like me, so here goes: “To provide a better financial future for our clients, to help them think about outcomes… instead of focusing on noise in the papers…and on market volatility, which is meaningless. If you (have/ are focused on) a pension fund with a 30-year objective, does it really matter what’s happening in India or Greece today?”] 

Discussion of the poor word choice above and my recommendations: I am sure many of my readers will be struck by the redundancy--and the resulting inelegance--in the “clarity of purpose” sentence highlighted in red. “Our clarity of (such-and-such thing) is crystal clear” is no different to saying something like “the sincerity of my apology/ friendship/ advice…is absolutely sincere” or “the difficulty of task is extremely difficult.” There are many different ways Mr. Fink could have made that key statement with the same vehemence but correctly. Two alternatives, for instance: 

  1. Our clarity of purpose is a constant--has never changed, and never will. It is immutable!
  2. Our purpose is crystal clear (or, is unquestionably clear) and unambiguous/ precise... It has never changed and never will.
The second alternative sounds better, and is more penetrating, because the dropping of “clarity” from the beginning of the sentence allows me to reinsert Larry Fink's vivid and evocative phrase “crystal clear.” Still, if Mr. Fink wanted to emphasize the term “purpose” at the very beginning of the sentence, he could have used a variety of stirring adjectives. For example: “Our singular purpose is…” or “Our overarching purpose is…” or “Our defining purpose is…” and so on.  

What explains the kind of muddy wording, the redundancy, as in the “clarity of purpose” sentence (a clumsiness that I do encounter occasionally)? Too much passion and emotion clouding out clarity of language. But what amazes me most about this particular case is how come no one on Mr. Fink’s presumably highly talented team noticed the screwed-up language? Or maybe some did but succumbed to timorousness! 

Has Larry Fink’s glaring solecism dimmed my high esteem for his intellect? Not an iota! In fact, I can hardly wait for his next appearance on PBS. Given the many disturbing and tectonic events in recent months, and the ongoing tumult in China, a glimpse into his latest thinking would be like manna from heaven.
 
© Copyright 2015 V.J. Singal
 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Answer to Yesterday’s Quick Quiz

To make sense of this post, you need to first read the previous one, which asks you to identify the mispronounced word in a one-minute video clip.

Next, 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 or sophisticated person is mispronouncing or misusing 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/ usage alerts!” And the reason why I name the radio or TV program and identify the speaker is solely to make this feature credible.

Answer: The mispronounced word is paean (at the approx. 48-second mark, when you hear Jeffery Brown say “it’s read as a kind of paean to individualism,” mispronouncing paean, which means a song or expression of joy, triumph, or praise, as pay-ahn). The correct pronunciation: pee-un.

The most disturbing aspect of this faux pas: For as long as I can remember, Jeffrey Brown has been the go-to guy on PBS “NewsHour” for interviewing authors of every level of eminence. So, he must have used this word in several of his previous conversations, each time mispronouncing it as pay-ahn! 

Hence the following lament: Just as famous New York Times columnist David Brooks is likely to mispronounce imbroglio for years to come (see last paragraph of this September 2013 post), Jeffrey Brown is destined to continue botching the pronunciation of paean because no co-worker, friend,or acquaintance is going to correct him. Such is society.  

© Copyright 2015  V.J. Singal

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Quick Quiz: Identify the Mispronounced High-caliber Word

The short video clip below, an excerpt from the Bookshelf segment broadcast earlier this week on PBS “NewsHour” (my favorite news program), is intrinsically very interesting but it also contains a glaring mispronunciation. Can you identify it? Answer in my next post—tomorrow, Sunday evening. 

More about the clip: In it, you hear host Jeffrey Brown interview author and New York Times poetry columnist David Orr, whose book “The Road Not Taken” is an all-new point of view on Robert Frost’s most admired poem. [The full name of the book: “The Road Not Taken—Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong”]   

© Copyright 2015  V.J. Singal

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Friday, July 31, 2015

“The Subtlety of a Panzer Division Rolling into Poland”; Trump’s Beliefs “Begin and End with the Morning Mirror”--Visual, Evocative Expression to Emphasize Something

Here are some recent examples of articulate people 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.

  • Bette Midler, talking to CBS Sunday Morning’s Mo Rocca about her role of legendary talent agent Sue Mengers in “I’ll Eat You Last,” saying: “After the show, I immediately marched up to (Barbara Streisand) with all the subtlety of a panzer division rolling into Poland and said ‘Listen, kid, you are going…,”
 
  • [From the Friday, July 31, 2015, edition of PBS’s “NewsHour] While discussing the differences between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, the two presidential candidates creating the most stir in their respective sides of the political aisle, panelist David Brooks, who is a conservative columnist, saying: “Trump and Sanders have different belief styles; not sure Trump believes in anything except, you know, his belief system, sort of, begins and ends with the morning mirror. But Sanders actually believes in something—he is intellectually consistent, and intellectually rigorous. His beliefs are coherent…”
© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal

 

Monday, July 27, 2015

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

Have you looked at the latest edition of Words of the Month,” my free vocabulary enrichment feature, which has been online since yesterday? Here are 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. despoil
2. insouciant
3. surpassingly
4. illusory
5. doctrinal
6. inchoate

 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

ISIS is “Expanding Like an Oil Slick”; Justice Kennedy’s “Veins Sticking Out in His Neck” -- Visual, Evocative Expression to Emphasize Something

Here are some recent examples of articulate people 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.

  • During a five day period late last month, terrorists expressing fealty to ISIS made sensational strikes in Africa, Asia, and Europe. They attacked a beach resort in Tunisia, a mosque in Kuwait, an American industrial firm in France, and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Shortly thereafter, former CIA director James Woolsey told BBC: “ISIS is expanding like an oil slick. They are getting more and more  bold…” 
 
  • [From the June 26, 2015, edition of PBS’s “Washington Week in Review”]  While discussing the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding the nationwide availability of tax subsidies under Obamacare (a 6-3 ruling, thanks to Roberts and Kennedy siding with the four liberal justices), panelist Pete Williams of NBC drew the following contrast with the Court’s previous high-profile ruling on Obamacare--the one in 2012, when only Roberts sided with the four liberals: “…In 2012, Anthony Kennedy was just, veins sticking out in his neck, opposed to the law. This time, granted it was a different question, he was all along with the chief justice.” 
© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal

Answer to Yesterday’s Quick Quiz

To make sense of this post, you need to first read the previous one, which asks you to identify the mispronounced word in each of three video clips.

Clip #1: The mispronounced word is hydra (at the approx. 13-second mark, when the interviewer says “an enemy that is a many-headed hydra…,” mispronouncing hydra as heed-ruh). The correct pronunciation: hy-druh.

Clip #2: The mispronounced word is mores (at the approx. 16-second mark, when Michael Gerson says “change in sexual mores that you see in Hollywood…,” mispronouncing mores as mawrz). The correct pronunciation: mawr-ays, with the second syllable -ays rhyming with the word “days.”

Clip #3: The mispronounced word is hyperbole (at the approx. 5-second mark, when Chuck Todd says “perhaps it was a bit of hyperbole…,” pronouncing hyper as in such words as hyperactive, hypercritical, hypersensitive). The correct pronunciation: hy-puhr-buh-lee. Note the stress on the second syllable -puhr.

Why bother? It would be worth your while to revisit the concluding paragraph (the one titled “A reminder why correct pronunciation matters”) in my blog post of February, 2013, triggered by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s pronunciation of chasm as chaz-um instead of kaz-um. As I said then, please do not ever use a high-caliber word unless you are absolutely sure about its pronunciation and usage. Otherwise, you’ll come across as being bookish and insular. And some in your audience might even think that you picked up the highfalutin terms while preparing for the interview or presentation.

© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal

Monday, June 29, 2015

Quick Quiz: Identify the Mispronounced Words in the Three Clips Below

Lately, I’ve come across an unacceptably high incidence of mispronunciations by media personalities. Here are a few from just the past three days.

But 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, especially a well-known media personality, is mispronouncing or misusing 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/ usage alerts!” And the reason why I name the radio or TV program and identify the speaker is solely to make this feature credible.

Each of the three video clips below contains a mispronounced word. Can you identify it? Note that in clip #1, i.e., first clip from the top, the error is by interviewer William Brangham—the fellow in a tie.  And in case you are interested, here is the context for each:

Clip #1, from “PBS NewsHour” of Friday, June 26, 2015--the discussion is about ISIS (or Islamic State) which, supposedly, was responsible for three terrorist acts earlier that day--one in Tunisia, one in France, and one in Kuwait.

Clip #2, also from the same edition of “PBS NewsHour,” features Michael Gerson, a speech writer for President George W. Bush and now a Washington Post columnist, discussing the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on gay marriage earlier that day.

Clip #3 is from yesterday’s edition of “Meet the Press.” Here, host Chuck Todd is referring to the many notable political events of last week—a week which several Washington watchers have described as Barack Obama’s most successful since he became president.

Answers in my next post--tomorrow (Tuesday) evening!

© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal
 
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Sunday, June 28, 2015

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

Have you looked at the latest edition of Words of the Month,” my free vocabulary enrichment feature, which has been online since early June? Here are 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. sangfroid
2. malefactor
3. odious
4. immutable
5. idolatrous
6. phalanx

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Glaring Solecism: Dylann Roof, Perpetrator of the Charleston Church Shootings, a “Gentleman”?


In the six days since that stunning massacre of nine African Americans in a church in Charleston, leading South Carolinians have, justifiably, used such terms as “a hardcore white supremacist,” “an extreme racist,” and “an embodiment of evil” to describe the 21-year-old perpetrator, Dylann Roof. There has been an outpouring of equally strong denunciations from prominent Americans elsewhere.

So, you can imagine my annoyance and indignation when, during yesterday’s edition of the “Diane Rehm Show,” the highly respected Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne used the word gentleman while referring to Dylann Roof.  “Unforgivably thoughtless of Dionne, considering his vast experience as a guest on NPR and other radio programs,” I immediately remarked to myself. When it comes to more appropriate words, Dionne had a choice of numerous alternatives—man, person, individual, fellow, killer, shooter…I could go on.

[E.J. Dionne’s exact words--“…it became very clear as the weekend unfolded that this gentleman was motivated by a deep racism...”--were in response to Rehm’s opening question and can be seen at the 10:08:25 mark in the transcript: https://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2015-06-22/gun-homicides-mass-violence-and-racism-in-the-u-s]

Of course, E.J. Dionne’s solecism is not the first time I’ve heard a radio or TV guest apply the word gentleman for the perpetrator of something heinous. Time and again, I hear law enforcement officers commit the same “crime,” i.e., “murder” the word gentleman by using it when referring to, say, a terrorist, a rapist, or an armed burglar.

Bottom line--The thing to ponder for my blog readers is: Has society become so reflexive, so robotic, in its use of gentleman that the word has lost its complimentary sense and is now no more than a synonym for “a male adult”?  In other words, using the word gentleman for a criminal is no longer an impropriety?
 
© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal

 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Interviewing: Historic Example of a Prominent American Left Utterly Speechless Because He Failed to Anticipate an Obvious Question

The video clip below should serve as a powerful and most enduring lesson to anyone and everyone who will ever be interviewed. The lesson: That if you fail to do your homework, such as formulating your thoughts on at least the most likely questions during a forthcoming interview, then you, too, could look like a “deer in the headlights” and, for a few moments, become the definition of “inarticulate”!

Background: My blog readers of a certain age will immediately recognize the video clip because it’s from a famous TV interview broadcast on CBS in November, 1979, when the late Sen. Edward Kennedy was about to launch his campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. You can see Kennedy is clearly stumped when the interviewer, famous broadcast journalist Roger Mudd, asks him an obvious question--“Why do you want to be president?” For whatever reason (hubris, or a sense of entitlement, or something else) the senator isn’t prepared for that query and freezes! [Incidentally, it took Kennedy several seconds to “recover,” and when he did, he began rambling hopelessly, which you can see at the 1:21 minute mark in the following clip on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5TkhNWPspM.] 

Not surprisingly, Ted Kennedy’s miserable expression and inarticulateness in response to Mudd’s question instantly became airborne and, to this day, more than 35 years later, the then-White House hopeful’s fiasco still finds occasional mention in the media. In fact, that is exactly how the long-ago interview reentered my consciousness: Last month, while discussing the present crop of presidential candidates, a talking head featured the clip below to remind his audience of what can transpire when any interviewee is poorly prepared and lowers his or her guard. 

© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal

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“Scale of an Old Testament Miracle”; “a Leninist Assertion of State Power” -- Visual, Evocative Expression to Emphasize Something

Here are some recent examples of articulate people 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. 

  • About a month ago, when there was suddenly a high level of activity in the U.S. Senate—a body which seems to be permanently stricken with paralysis—a somewhat satisfied Bob Schieffer, host of CBS’s “Face the Nation,” had this to say in his weekly commentary: “By no means is it on the scale of an Old Testament miracle, but some progress is better than no progress.”
 
  • Referring to the “water rush” that is going on in California’s Central Valley, with people drilling wherever they can thanks to the absence of any regulation on how much water they can take out, a TV interviewer said to Jerry Brown: “You don’t know how much water there is and how much they are taking out… Surely in this emergency you need to get a grip on that more quickly!” To which the California governor responded: “Well, the complexity of California, stretching from the Oregon border to the Mexican border, doesn’t lend itself to a quick (pause) Leninist assertion of state power. This is a more decentralized, more private sector oriented world we live in, so we move at a pace slower than (what you are suggesting).”
 
  • Rebutting some detractors during a Sunday morning TV show, Peter Schweizer, whose recent book “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” saying: “I’ve given my findings to the New York Times, Bloomberg…these (news organizations) are not cupcakes! They are serious researchers and investigators.”
© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal

Thursday, May 28, 2015

“The World Cup of Fraud”—The Speaker’s Misplaced Eye Emphasis While Uttering the Now-Famous Words

By now, you’ve probably seen the image of a top IRS official (Richard Weber, chief of criminal investigations) describing the deep and pervasive corruption among FIFA’s top ranks as “The World Cup of Fraud.” The moment those catchy words were uttered, which was during a U.S. Department of Justice press conference yesterday, May 27, they became airborne.

Now, watch the video clip below and ask yourself the following: How much more emphatic and impactful Mr. Weber would have been if, instead of looking down at his notes, he had been looking directly at the audience as he uttered those crucial words! Such a face-to-face connection with the audience would have enabled him to use appropriate facial and hand gestures--as well as other nonverbals--to accentuate that particular remark. [Yes, I use notes all the time for much of my public speaking but I make sure to look directly at the audience when uttering key words and phrases.] 

Take a look at my post of March 26, 2011, which has a better illustration of when to look at your notes and when not to while uttering a sentence. 

© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal
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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Want to Become a Dynamic and Riveting Public Speaker? Then Watch this 11-second Clip of Someone Whose Public Speaking Skills are Matchless and Unrivalled!

Ted Cruz first entered my consciousness in late 2012, when he was elected a U.S. senator and almost immediately began grabbing the limelight in Washington D.C.  Ever since, I have been stupefied by his public speaking skills. There’s no question that he is one of the best public speakers in the land thanks to a combination of extraordinary articulation and superlative nonverbals, especially the way he uses his voice, hands, and torso. 

Note that I lavish the above praise on Sen. Cruz despite the gulf between his thinking and mine. I can bet that were he and I to meet over coffee at, say, a Starbucks, we wouldn’t even be able to agree on whether it is cloudy or sunny outside. 

Special comment regarding Cruz’s inspiring use of clenched hands in the clip below: As you enjoy the short video clip below, excerpted from his presidential campaign-launching speech at Liberty University last month, note that Cruz’s fists are vertical. Well, as I illustrated in a blog post last year, clenched hands in a horizontal position can be an equally effective gesture when you want to project leadership, determination, vigor, etc.

Good material for my seminars and one-on-one coaching on public speaking. 

© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal
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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

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

Have you looked at the latest edition of Words of the Month,” my free vocabulary enrichment feature, which has been online since mid-April? Here are 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-3rdEdition”): 

1. dudgeon
2. eschew
3. realpolitik
4. taciturn
5. intransigent
6. pariah

Sunday, April 26, 2015

“Great Living Blizzard”; “Seismograph on Society”; “An Aladdin’s Cave of..”--Visual, Evocative Expression to Emphasize Something

Here are some recent examples of articulate people 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. 

  • Describing his “near religious experience” on a mountaintop in Central Mexico, National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore telling CBS “Sunday Morning,” “I arrived before dawn on a rented mule and there, standing silently in the mist, were ancient fir trees so laden with monarch butterflies that their bows literally bent under the weight. When the sun came up, millions of brilliant orange spots burst from the trees, rising and falling and swirling around me like a great living blizzard.”
 
  • As expected, the recent death of Noble Prize winning author Guenter Grass generated a torrent of tributes from prominent Germans. That nation’s president spoke about Grass having “moved, enthralled, and made the people of our country think with his literature and his art.” Another described him as “having held up a mirror to the Germans.” But the most memorable and evocative words were from the German Cultural Council which called him “more than a writer…a seismograph on society.”
 
  • Journalist Donatella Lorch, while explaining on NPR why Nepal’s two giant neighbors India and China are willing to spend billions of dollars to build dams in that tiny landlocked nation, saying: “Nepal is an Aladdin’s cave of water wealth for the entire South Asian region…It has massive glaciers. It has massive rivers…” 
© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The word “Automaticity” — Its Utterance by Guest on Yesterday’s “Morning Edition” Earns Special Mention by Program Host Steve Inskeep

Did you listen to NPR “Morning Edition” yesterday (Friday, April 3)? One of the segments featured Tony Blinken (Deputy Secretary of State, hence a top official in the State Dept.) who highlighted some of the critical aspects of the nuke accord that had been reached with Iran just a few hours earlier. 

In response to host Steve Inskeep’s question “If Iran violates the deal…would the sanctions automatically snap back,” Mr. Blinken said, “Yes, there is going to be automaticity in the so-called snapbackif Iran reneges on its commitments.”  
 
Well, use of the uncommon word automaticity (pronounced aw-tuh-muh-TIS-ih-tee) raised the eyebrows of not only yours truly (and, presumably, of at least tens of thousands of other listeners) but also of host Steve Inskeep who, at the end of the interview some 20 seconds later, commented “OK, Tony Blinken is Deputy Secretary of State and I think the first person ever to use the word automaticity on Morning Edition. Mr. Blinken, thanks very much...” [Click here for the transcript.] 

Some of the ways in which a single word can greatly impact a discussion or make one's point indelible: People with a strong command of the language and who speak with confidence will, often a time, really push the envelope in their choice of words, especially when they are trying to galvanize their audience. (This is a central aspect of my popular keynote "The Power of the Spoken Word.") Here are three quick examples of how a single word can help make one's point indelible, if not airborne:

  1. Using an ordinary word in a most extraordinary and imaginative way. (For instance, my post of Jan 16, 2013, which is about famous Spanish painter Joan Miro proclaiming that he is going to “assassinate painting.”) 
  2. Using an uncommon and high-caliber word but one that is sure to be understood by the audience because of the context or use of synonyms. (In the case of Tony Blinken’s utterance, it is obvious to listeners that automaticity is the noun from the word automatic which had been used by Inskeep just seconds earlier). And this is exactly what my book is about. Just click here and look at the "Workplace Examples" on the sample pages.
  3. Creating a word, often on the spot, that is (i) going to be readily understood by the audience, and (ii) likely to stir them, even fire their imagination. This immediately brings to mind a spectacular moment in a Sunday morning talk show during the 2012 presidential-debate-season when a guest used an extremely fresh and stirring adjective derived from the name of a famous movie character. It sure left the audience spellbound, so much so that the host interrupted the guest to comment on that particular word! Will feature that video clip in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!
Of course, these three examples are by no means a comprehensive list of how a single word can make a point indelible.
 
© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Let's Welcome Another Prominent U.S. Senator to my List of “Today’s New Breed of Holocaust Deniers”


The purpose of the video clip below, which is from the Sunday, March 23, 2015, edition of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” is twofold: 

1. To inform you about another high-profile U.S. senator--and that too a 2016 presidential aspirant--who rejects climate change (because it serves his political ends) and is fit to be inducted into my honor roll of “Today’s New Breed of Holocaust Deniers.”  

2. California Gov. Jerry Brown’s strongly worded denunciation of this senator. In fact, Gov. Brown’s criticism is so well articulated and forceful that I am likely to use some of his verbal expression in my future speeches on the subject. I believe you, too, will find it inspiring.

© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Vital Negotiating Tip from Negotiator Par Excellence George Mitchell, former Senate Majority Leader and Principal Architect of the 1998 Peace Deal in Northern Ireland

In this half-minute clip, from a Rita Braver interview on CBS “Sunday Morning” (one of my three most favorite programs on television), we hear Sen. George Mitchell outline a key ingredient of his highly successful approach to negotiations.
 
© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal
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Friday, March 20, 2015

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

Have you looked at the latest edition of Words of the Month,” my free vocabulary enrichment feature, which has been online since the end of February? Here are 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-3rdEdition”): 

1. stentorian
2. excrescence
3. quiescent
4. anodyne
5. incongruity
6. ensconce

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Pathetic First Impression! 10-second Video Clip of 2016 Presidential Aspirant Who Doesn’t Have a Clue How to Look Pleasing and “Connect” Instantly

First, the comments below are not fueled by any political ideology: My criticism would have been equally vigorous, equally scathing, had the subject been a Democrat.

Now, click on the 10-second video clip below, which is from a very recent edition (Sunday, March 1) of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and you’ll observe a miserable first impression created by the guest. 
 
Why do I say "miserable"? For two reasons: First, the guest (Ben Carson, a Republican presidential aspirant for 2016) appears statue-like and inanimate--what I describe in my seminars and coaching as the “Egyptian Sphinx model.”  Second, his expression is abjectly cheerless, even funereal! 

Just two of the numerous things Carson could have done in the opening seconds to create a favorable first impression: a big, warm smile and at least a modicum of physical movement--say, leaning in momentarily. And I’m not even getting into aspects of his attire, such as his poor choice of tie. For a fuller discussion on that, please visit my posts on “men’s attire,” where I discuss the principle of matching contrasts. 

Ben Carson’s has to be one of the worst first impressions I have ever seen from a person who is trying to market himself or herself, let alone someone who wants to be elected America’s next leader.

© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal
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Sunday, February 22, 2015

My Recent Interview on Russ Capper’s “The BusinessMakers Show”

Click here to view the video version of my recent interview with Russ Capper, a prominent Houstonian and host of “The BusinessMakers Show.” [For an alternate link, click here and scroll down to the middle of the page.] I believe you will be most interested in the following three segments from that conversation:

·         The opening minute: I describe the singular purpose of my company, “The Articulate Professional,” which has been in existence for over 22 years!

·         5 minutes 43 seconds into the interview: The William F. Buckley vs. William Bennett distinction--Why you should emulate the latter when wanting to speak with impact + the vital role of “spontaneous pauses.” Here, I discuss how to use--for impact and indelibility--fresh, evocative, and high caliber words without losing your audience or creating resentment, i.e., how to employ such words without coming across as pompous or pretentious. 

·         11 minutes 50 seconds into the interview: Three brief stories of spectacular communication failures by corporate titans and other luminaries. I briefly cite three anecdotes involving such failures, each of which was a powerful lesson and helped spawn one of the most popular offerings in my repertoire. [The three communication seminars/ coaching topics that were thus created: (i) Conquering the Pervasive Disease of Rambling: How to emphasize your point in Just Three Sentences; (ii) Creating a highly favorable first impression: Some simple verbal and nonverbal techniques; (iii) How to disarm and neutralize your critics and detractors without being offensive or disrespectful.]
 

Call me at 281-463-2500 or email me at vjsingal@verbalenergy.com if you’d like a clarification on any of the above. 


© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal


 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Another Tip for my Caucasian Readers on How to Create a High-Impact Attire: Capitalizing on One of the LIGHTER Colors in Your Facial Skin


In my post of February 4, 2014, I showed Sen. Bob Corker, arguably the best dressed of all our current male U.S. senators, donning a tie whose color was at the dark end of the range of natural hues in his face. Well, the clip below, from a recent interview on CBS “Face the Nation” (still my favorite among all the Sunday morning television talk shows), has the senator wearing a tie whose dominant color is somewhere at the mid-point of all the colors visible on his face. And he looks good, just as in all of my previous posts featuring him. 
 
The objective of this post, along with that of last February, is to demonstrate that when picking a tie, a typical Caucasian man has a very wide choice of colors that are (i) intrinsically pleasing, and (ii) will make the person look splendid because that entire range of colors is in keeping with the principle of matching contrasts discussed in my previous posts. Alas, the situation is far less favorable or “colorful” for people of color--men like me--whose relatively dark facial skin seriously limits their choice of neck ties.

© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal
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Thursday, February 12, 2015

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

Have you looked at the latest edition of Words of the Month,” my free vocabulary enrichment feature, which has been online since end-December?  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”) are:

1. sui generis
2. lucre
3. emasculate
4. catalytic
5. rumination
6. placid