Monday, January 31, 2011

Spontaneous Pauses: The Great Facilitators of Fresh Words and Synonyms

If the use of fresh words and synonyms is a defining trait of those who are articulate, then so are spontaneous pauses.

First, what do I mean by spontaneous pauses? Unlike “pregnant pauses,” which are planned or deliberate and inserted in a speech or conversation for effect, a spontaneous pause is, well, unplanned and usually takes a fraction of a second--just sufficient time for a speaker’s brain to put its “random access drive” into motion and pick a fresh word that will help articulate that person's thoughts.

The video clip below is a perfect example of a spontaneous pause in action. After uttering the words “if one is living on social security alone, one’s got pretty,” the speaker--Nicholas Eberstadt--pauses for a split second as his brain seeks out a fresh and strong word that will help capture the essence of his message, and out comes “penurious” from his lips. Sure, there was a good chance that instead of penurious, Mr. Eberstadt might have come up with some other word that too would have given force to his argument.

Bottom line: If you can make the use of spontaneous pauses automatic when you are speaking with passion or trying to emphasize something--as I have learned to do over the years, fresh words and synonyms will become second nature to you.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Visual, Evocative Words to Emphasize Something—Some Inspiring / Humorous Examples

Here are some recent examples of articulate Americans and others using a vivid, evocative expression to emphasize something--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.

1. Earlier today, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” about the massive uprising in Egypt against the Mubarak regime, Tom Friedman saying: “Egypt, and really most of the Arab world, has been on vacation from history for the last 50 years, thanks largely to oil.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Making a Speech or Other Presentation Indelible, If Not Immortal

In my post of Nov. 21 last year, I pointed out that FDR’s “infamy speech” is a perfect example of how a single, fresh, out-of-the-ordinary, word or phrase that is also strong and evocative can sometimes help make a speech or other presentation memorable, if not immortal. Last week, which marked the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s inauguration as president, there wasn’t a news program in the nation that did not broadcast an excerpt of the inaugural he delivered on that bitterly cold morning of January 20, 1961, especially the line “And so my fellow Americans, ask not…” (see video clip below) which captured the essence of the speaker’s central message. In fact, that particular line is so deeply entrenched in the American psyche that, 100 years from now, that speech is still likely to rank as among the most stirring speeches by any American. Two more examples of speeches by American leaders becoming immortal, thanks to a line within that speech having such acute resonance that the words reverberate even today, decades later: (i) Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, in which the words “I have a dream” were the leitmotif of that extraordinary presentation delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. (ii) The speech delivered by President Reagan on June 12, 1987, from West Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, with the passionately delivered exhortation “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Heinous – the “Mispronounced Word of the Week”

This past week, while speaking about the tragedy in Tucson, numerous Americans have used the word “heinous” [pronounced HAY-nus] to describe Jared Loughner’s crime. No surprise there. What has amazed me is the number of prominent and well-educated people who have mispronounced that word, including University of Arizona President Robert Shelton. In his opening remarks at the nationally broadcast memorial service on Wednesday night (the one attended by President Obama), Shelton pronounced heinous as “highness.” Unbelievable!

© Copyright 2011 V. J. Singal