Thursday, October 31, 2013

Because of a Poor Choice of Words, Guest on the “Diane Rehm Show” Came Across as a Scold

Avoid using the phrase “as I told you…” unless you absolutely must. Why? Because, unless the words are accompanied by friendly and pleasing nonverbals, you can come across like a scold!  Here is a specific example:

During the October 1, 2013, edition of the “Diane Rehm Show,” which was about the shrinking population of the monarch butterfly, as guest panelist Tamie DeWitt (an invertebrate biologist and a “monarch expert”) was explaining how her team catches monarchs, she added: “It’s a lot easier than you think because as I told you before, these monarchs are very focused on getting to Mexico.” [This sentence occurs at 11:13:15 in the transcript.]

Now, I have no doubt that Tamie DeWitt is as endearing and pleasing a personality as is the subject of her pursuits--i.e., monarch butterflies--and I am sure she meant to respond in a most friendly and pleasing manner. But the words “as I told you before,” compounded by her relatively strong voice and rapid speech, made Ms. DeWitt sound like a scold. To us radio listeners, who couldn’t see any disarming or mitigating facial expression and other body language (if there were any), she came across—at that precise moment—as one who was admonishing or at least mildly reprimanding the person asking the questions, host Diane Rehm.

So, how else could Ms. DeWitt have worded her response? Well, how about something like this: “As I was saying earlier…” or “As I indicated earlier….” In some situations, one could use an even humbler alternative: “As I was suggesting earlier...”

Bottom line: Unless you are using appropriately friendly and endearing body language or you really mean to chide someone (or express annoyance or irritation), it’s best to avoid using the word “told” as in “As I told you….”

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

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 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. dilatory
2. ad hominem
3. malevolent
4. countenance
5. impracticable
6. de minimis

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Visual, Evocative Expression to Emphasize Something: Blazing Across the Midnight Sky; Getting Chalk Dust on My Cleats!

Here are some recent examples of articulate Americans 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.

  • When asked about the likely fallout of the Trayvon Martin verdict (in which George Zimmerman was acquitted), Colin Powell telling CBS’s “Face the Nation” this past August: “…I don’t know if it’ll have staying power. These cases come along and blaze across the midnight sky and then, after a period of time, they are forgotten.”

  • In the wake of the Snowden revelations and the subsequent harsh spotlight on the NSA, Gen. Michael Hayden, former CIA Director, telling Charlie Rose: “Tell me the box (that) I can operate in…I’m going to places at the very edge of the box, I’m going to be very aggressive--I’ll be so close to the outer bounds and markers that I’ll get chalk dust on my cleats.”  [Background: Referring to the inevitable tension between the “NSA wanting to keep everything secret, and the citizenry wanting to know and understand what they (the security agencies) are doing,” Hayden told Charlie Rose: “So, you the American people, through your elected reps, give me the field of play and I’ll play very aggressively in it. As long as you understand what risks you are embracing by keeping me and my colleagues in this box, we are good to go.”]

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal