Monday, October 31, 2011

Injecting Humor: Conservative George Will’s Memorable Take on Republican Mitt Romney’s Varying Political Stance

Just in case you missed it, here is conservative columnist George Will’s brilliant characterization of Mitt Romney, uttered on “ABC This Week with Christiane Amanpour” two weeks ago (Oct. 16):

“Romney has shown a certain versatility of conviction over the years.”

As you might expect, everyone else seated around the table that morning immediately burst out laughing. You can bet that only someone of Will’s rare intellect can spontaneously conjure up such a compelling and humorously fresh expression.

© Copyright 2011 V. J. Singal

The Case of a Dangling Modifier; Egregious Syntax Error by NPR Host Steve Inskeep

While interviewing Dallas businessman Ray Washburne earlier this month, NPR Morning Edition cohost Steve Inskeep put the following question to his guest:

“Let me ask another thing. As a Texan who has been very active in the Republican Party and has raised many hundreds of thousands of dollars, I assume you're acquainted with your governor, Rick Perry?”

Many of my readers will instantly recognize a grammatical blunder in the long second sentence. The opening clause “As a Texan who has…….thousands of dollars” is meant to modify the “you” or the object in that sentence (i.e. guest Washburne) and not the subject “I” because it is not Inskeep who is the Texan and active in the Republican Party. But, because an opening phrase or clause always modifies the subject that immediately follows, the above sentence ends up either confusing the reader or listener or creating unintentional humor. [To check it out for yourself, click here:]

I realize the above is basic grammar, but if the highly experienced and talented Inskeep can make such an egregious error, I suppose so can anyone else if they lower their guard.

BTW, one way to correct the syntax in the above complex sentence would be to rewrite it as follows: “As a Texas who has been very active in…… and thousands of dollars, you’re acquainted with your governor, Rick Perry, I assume?”

© Copyright 2011 V. J. Singal

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Glaring Mispronunciation of "Contretemps" by Leading Light of the Media Doris Kearns Goodwin

Earlier this week, while reviewing the Sept. 4, 2011, edition of “Meet the Press,” I was stupefied to see best selling author and highly regarded presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin mispronounce the word contretemps as [kon-truh-temps]. (The correct pronunciation is kon-truh-tahN , meaning that the N does not represent a consonant, and the ah is nasalized. Thus, the last syllable here rhymes with the last syllable in words such as bon vivant and rapprochement.) What particularly contributed to my astonishment is the fact that, over the last two or three decades, Ms. Goodwin has been a member of countless radio/television panels, hobnobbing with America’s most articulate.

[BTW, if you wish to check out that Sept. 4 edition of “Meet the Press” to see Ms. Goodwin’s blunder for yourself, click here:
Her use of the word contretemps occurs just after 21 minutes into the clip.]

The most lamentable aspect of the above is the Ms. Goodwin will probably keep mispronouncing this word for years to come: My research indicates that when someone utters a glaring mispronunciation, no friends or acquaintances will point it out to him or her, fearing that the correction will be viewed as an unfriendly, even a hostile act.

Over the past couple of decades, there have been countless occasions when, as a sincere, well-meaning, and helpful gesture, I have informed a stranger--say a host or guest featured on NPR or some other news channel--of their mispronunciation. (Incidentally, I perform this “public service” by means of an extremely polite email or voice mail.) Never have I received so much as an acknowledgment. Weird.

© Copyright 2011 V. J. Singal

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Executive Communication: Rare Lesson in How to Chew Out Someone; How Just a Few Exemplary Nonverbals Can Make Even a Brief Utterance Highly Impactful

Before you watch the video clip below, please revisit the post and clip of a month ago—Sept. 30 -- which shows a top Republican politician’s strong, fresh, and well chosen words of criticism for someone of her own party being completely wasted because of the abysmal delivery.

Now click on the video clip below, which is from the April 4, 2010, edition of “Meet the Press” and shows a Democratic Congresswoman chewing out a top official of the Obama administration over the pathetic economy. The reason why this clip made it to the highly regarded "Meet the Press" broadcast is obvious—Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur’s utterance is so attention-getting, even earth-shaking, and, of course, indelible, thanks to her exemplary nonverbals, ranging from deliberate and forceful hand gestures to pregnant pauses and uncommon vocal variety.

An excellent example of how a brief utterance can become airborne because of powerful delivery. So, executives and managers please note: if somebody deserves to be chewed out during a meeting, do it forcefully, at full-throttle, instead of being wimpy and highly restrained, for that is how you send a message to everyone in the room.

© Copyright 2011 V. J. Singal