Friday, November 30, 2012

Mitt, the Correct Pronunciation of “Tumult” is NOT "TUM-ult"

First, my customary declaration for posts on “mispronounced words”: The objective is NOT to denigrate or ridicule someone. Instead, I feature such posts on the theory 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.

Now, click on the 15-second video clip below, excerpted from a broadcast of the third and final presidential debate, during which Mitt Romney used the word "tumult" several times when referring to the situation in the Middle East. Each time, he pronounced it as [TUM-ult], meaning that his first syllable seemed to rhyme either with “sum”/ “hum”/ “bum” etc. or with the first syllable in the word “tumultuous.” Wrong!

The two correct pronunciations of tumult are: [TYOO-mult] and [TOO-mult], with the "OO" pronouned as in "boot" and not as in "book."

© Copyright 2012  V. J. Singal

Visual, Evocative Expression to Emphasize Something

Here are some recent examples of articulate Americans 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.

  • Referring to the strong “Cyber Monday” sales earlier this week, Marshal Cohen, a retail analyst with the NPD Group, telling PBS’s NBR: “…every year we keep saying more and more consumers are shopping online, both the younger consumer which was born with a computer in their crib—they are very comfortable doing it—and the older generation is also…” 

  • Referring to Joe Biden’s “antics--his interjections, sighs, and quips…” during last month’s vice presidential debate, John Dickerson of Slate magazine saying: “At times his (Biden’s) treatment of Ryan was so dismissive, he seemed only a few threads of restraint from reaching across the table and patting Ryan on the head.” Really humorous!

© Copyright 2012  V. J. Singal

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Male Attire: First Selecting an Appropriate Tie and then Anchoring the Rest of the Attire Around It

Republican Sen. Bob Corker is much in the news these days because of his leadership role in helping fashion a solution to the so-called “fiscal cliff.” [In fact, he was interviewed just this afternoon on NPR.]  Well, did you know that he is also a sharp dresser, that he knows a thing or two about what sort of clothes will sharply enhance his appearance—specifically, his facial glow? Just click on the video clip below (taken from a recent segment of PBS Newshour, my favorite news program) and see for yourself.

Analysis:  In the case of people whose hair is of a light color, one easy and really effective way to heighten their facial glow is to first select a tie that matches the color of the hair and then anchor everything else--jacket and shirt--around it, making sure that the contrast below the neck is of about the same intensity as the contrast above the neck. (I am referring to the “the principle of matching contrasts,” something I never fail to mention in my seminars on “Some Simple Verbal and Nonverbal Skills for Creating a Highly Favorable First Impression” and which is also discussed in previous blog posts.) In the clip below, you can see that Senator Corker has done exactly that, picking a tie whose color matches his silver gray hair. Exemplary!

Note that while donning the same tie and dark jacket, had Sen. Corker worn a dark shirt, the extremely high contrast level of the attire would have overwhelmed the contrast above the neck, thus eclipsing the face.
© Copyright 2012  V. J. Singal


Sunday, November 25, 2012

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 a week. 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. blandishment
2. despotic
3. denouement
4. temerity
5. prowess
6. conundrum

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:


-- highly credentialed students at top business schools being subjected to all sorts of blandishments from major consulting firms

-- ever since the collapse of Vioxx, I’ve been very cynical of the blandishments contained in all the slick commercials that dominate prime-time TV

-- the young Wisconsinite was unmoved by the pleadings and blandishments of his parents to come home and run the family farm; two rivals for the club presidency showering blandishments on undecided members

-- succumbing to the blandishments in an attractive brochure; not buying into the blandishments of the latest “get rich quick” scheme being promoted on a local TV channel

-- Karen is a math genius and enjoys working in the derivatives department where math skills reign supreme. No amount of sweet talk or any of the usual blandishments such as offers of a higher salary or a juicy bonus will get her to leave derivatives and come work for you.


-- referring to such U.S. actions as the invasion of Iraq, secret military action deep inside Pakistan to eliminate bin Laden, and the relentless drone strikes in NW Pakistan, some critics saying that “the U.S. is acting despotically

-- our new department manager Sandra comes across as a bit despotic, the way she demands total obedience from everyone

-- during manager meetings, Joe held almost despotic sway, thanks to his close ties with the CEO

-- the fate of those animals that have the misfortune of wandering onto the new 85-miles per hour highway between Austin and San Antonio is one more example of man’s despotic attitude toward wildlife

-- the despotic Miranda Priestly in the movie “The Devil Wears Prada”; Joseph Stalin, the Nazi Party, and Idi Amin being among the many rulers and organizations whose names are synonymous with despotism; following the attempted killing of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, Pakistanis protesting the Taliban’s “despotic agenda

-- talking about J. Edgar Hoover, author Ron Kessler telling CBS Sunday Morning “being as powerful as he was, he thought he was a god… as time went on, he became a despot

(Note that the last syllable is nasalized and thus rhymes with the last syllable in "rapprochement")

-- during the Cuban Missile Crisis, our heads were filled with thoughts of the unimaginably horrendous denouement that was likely if either leader (JFK or Khrushchev) were to take an escalatory step, such as….

-- I am anxious to see the upshot, the denouement of it all—will either of the two execs resign, or be fired?

-- all the execs, managers, and other employees eagerly awaiting the denouement—the go or no-go decision by the board of directors

-- in the 1941 Alfred Hitchcock movie “Suspicion,” the startling denouement, when the Cary Grant character is suddenly transformed into …., leaving this author disgusted, even cheated

-- in soccer, the dramatic denouement of many a World Cup match, thanks to the nail-biting series of penalty kicks…


-- the often-broadcast video clip from a 1988 vice presidential debate showing Democratic VP nominee Lloyd Bentsen chiding his Republican counterpart Dan Quayle for the latter’s temerity in comparing himself to the late John F. Kennedy

-- our colleague Robert is the only one around here who has the temerity to question execs on some of the assumptions in their presentations

-- everyone was surprised when brand manager Marian had the temerity to say during her presentation that she owes her winning strategies to Mr. Smith (who, last year, left the company in disgrace)

-- this author having the temerity to describe this blog as being second to none in giving professionals new ideas on how to be more impactful while participating in a meeting or while delivering a presentation

-- each year, several ambitious but inexperienced climbers who were thirsting to add Mt. Everest to their list of conquests in life paying for their temerity dearly

-- during the early years of my career, I was brash and often lost my temper, once even speaking angrily to my boss—that temerity cost me heavily

-- the stirring opening scene  in the 1982 movie “Gandhi,” during which the freshly minted attorney is physically thrown from a train in the middle of nowhere because he, a “colored” person, had the temerity to sit in a first-class compartment


-- whenever you burrow into the circumstances that earned someone the august Medal of Honor, you instantly realize that the serviceman’s actions were the very definition of martial prowess

-- they lack selling prowess; somebody’s growing prowess in producing catchy ads; the retailing prowess of Wal-Mart; the legendary Peter Lynch, who became famous for his stock picking prowess

-- Apple Computer’s unrivaled prowess when it comes to product innovation; GE execs’ reputed prowess in managing large organizations

-- the image of Toyota, which had become synonymous with automobile design and manufacturing prowess, taking a hit of late because of massive product recalls


-- a major conundrum facing Western democracies today: how to effectively surveil all those who are likely sympathizers of al Qaeda without grotesquely profiling or seriously infringing upon the constitutional rights of entire Muslim communities

-- let me tell you about just one of my many conundrums….

-- the challenging conundrum faced by many first-time job seekers: they cannot find employment in their chosen professions without relevant experience, and they cannot acquire such experience without first getting a job in that field;  the current Israeli-Palestinian conundrum

-- a government minister in an African nation saying: “One issue that is making me lie awake at night is actually a moral conundrum: whether or not to sanction a new road that will improve economic conditions in a very impoverished region but which will also lead to the destruction of wildlife habitat”

-- Paul Thompson of Purdue citing the following as an example of a “real philosophical conundrum” in the matter of gene implanting: “Supposing we could produce a strain of chickens that are blind and therefore don’t mind being crowded together. Would that be permissible on animal welfare grounds?”

© Copyright 2012  V. J. Singal

Thursday, November 8, 2012

One of the Most Articulate In the Land: David Darst of Morgan Stanley

If you are looking for someone to inspire you into becoming a superior communicator, then David Darst, Morgan Stanley’s chief investment strategist, is one such person. Unquestionably, he belongs to the pantheon of the most articulate Americans.

Click on the 3-minute video clip below (taken from a recent edition of “Consuelo Mack WealthTrack,” one of my favorite programs on television) and watch how, using a variety of verbal and nonverbal skills, Mr. Darst makes an impassioned and persuasive case regarding Wall Street--that we should not lose faith in the financial markets, notwithstanding the recent financial crisis. Not in at least the past three or four years have I come across anyone new whose communication style is so extraordinarily effective and gripping, particularly someone who can spontaneously come up with a stream of brilliant analogies to emphasize his point.

Not surprisingly, I’ve decided to give Mr. Darst the equivalent of my personal "medal of honor" by including him in the select few Americans named in the welcome paragraph on my website’s homepage as being “enormously successful communicators.”

P.S. I would urge you to watch the clip more than once: As I say at the beginning of this post, David Darst’s engaging style is bound to inspire you to further invigorate and expand your communication skills. To remind you of the Lee Iacocca quote on my home page, “The ability to communicate is everything.”  

© Copyright 2012  V. J. Singal