Friday, February 28, 2014

Oscar-Nominated Film Director Alexander Payne’s Incorrect Use/ Mispronunciation of Highfalutin Words makes him look Bookish and Insular

First, my customary declaration for posts of this kind: The objective is NOT to denigrate or ridicule someone. Instead, I feature such posts in the belief that if a highly educated 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.

Did you watch the “Charlie Rose” interview last week (February 20, to be precise) with famous movie director Alexander Payne? [As you may know, his latest film, “Nebraska,” has been nominated for the best picture Oscar. I’ve watched all nine movies nominated for that award and, in my opinion, “Nebraska” is the best.] Well, during the approximately 16-minute interview, Payne threw out a number of high-caliber words, including oneiric, verisimilitude, and foment. The trouble is that some of those words were mispronounced or misused!

Take a look at the first of the two video clips below. You hear Payne pronounce oneiric as [oh-near-ik] when the only acceptable pronunciation for the word is [oh-ny-rik].  In the second video clip, you hear him say "...I feel like I am directing the creativity of others--fomenting and conducting their creativity..." I hope one of my blog readers has a direct line to Payne and can convey to him the following: the meaning of foment is to incite, instigate, or stir up something (such as trouble, violence, rebellion…). It is never used in the sense Payne had in mind.

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 last year 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 learned about those highfalutin terms while preparing for the interview or presentation. 
© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Vocabulary Expansion 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 two weeks. 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. peripatetic
2. avarice
3. miasma
4. iconoclast
5. obtuse
6. subservient

Here are extracts from some of my favorite examples, all carefully designed to help you implant the featured word into your conversational vocabulary and use it with confidence:


-- as he relentlessly travels from one world capital to another, John Kerry becoming one of our most peripatetic secretaries of state ever

-- this job is one of the more peripatetic assignments within the company

-- V.J. telling someone, laughingly: “Since 2006, I’ve traveled around the country quite a bit, presenting communication seminars for the benefit of corporate, nonprofit, and federal government entities and, of course, speaking at conferences and conventions. So, yeah, my latest incarnation is that of a peripatetic.”

-- a peripatetic professor constantly pacing the room while he lectures; the peripatetic lifestyle of some consultants because…; a peripatetic artist who frequently exhibits his works at different places

-- famous opera singers whose careers have turned them into peripatetics as they hop from one city to another; a politician who can be described as a peripatetic both geographically and ideologically


-- conversations just dripping with avarice

-- the movie “Syriana” depicts the evil that can result when powerful government officials do the bidding of an industry captain whose avarice his no moral limits--who is avariciously intent upon maximizing his wealth

-- the avarice that has characterized some art museums as the compete for bragging rights

-- the avaricious leaders of some nations in Africa and Asia who secretly built huge Swiss bank accounts

-- the extremely tragic “Trail of Tears” of 1838-39, a result of Andrew Jackson dishonorably defying the Supreme Court and the State of Georgia then avariciously evicting the Cherokees from their homeland because gold had been discovered there


-- until the recent budget agreement between Democratic Senator Patty Murray and Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, the miasma of hopelessness and pessimism which had paralyzed Washington D.C.

-- an upright American businessman having a hard time penetrating the miasma of corruption that pervades some parts of the world

-- my previous sales job was in one heck of a miasmic environment which I wouldn’t recommend even to my worst enemies; the miasma of alcohol that emanates from someone married to the bottle

-- the dark and miasmic past that used to be called East Germany; the miasma of smog that has been hitting Beijing latterly; the miasmic future depicted in the 1982 film “Blade Runner”

-- many Haitians living amid a miasma of indescribable poverty and deprivation


-- Vanguard founder John Bogle unpopular with the mutual fund industry because of his lifelong iconoclasm

-- he has done lots of unconventional things that have really shaken up the establishment—quite the iconoclast!

-- years ago, he was really admired for his outside the box, iconoclastic views and approach, but now he is traditional and conformist in his thinking, like everyone else;
two committee members always clashing because one is orthodox and the other is iconoclastic

-- an iconoclastic blogger; an iconoclastic chef; an architect’s iconoclastic designs; two U.S. senators known for their iconoclasm: Republican John McCain and Democrat Russ Feingold

-- the late Ransom Myers, who iconoclastically took on the fishing industry and national governments and successfully challenged the zeitgeist that “overfishing of the oceans” is an oxymoron


-- with regard to the scandalous lane closures on the George Washington Bridge last September, one wonders how anyone sworn to public service can make such a nakedly obtuse decision, no matter what their agenda

-- the presenter kept repeating the material, as if we were much too obtuse to understand the stuff the first time through; Scott has a tin ear for people’s reactions to his stories and jokes, which explains why he spoke so obtusely last evening and offended some of the women present

-- referring to the nearly 100 wild elephants being killed by poachers each day to satisfy the gluttonous and ignoble demand for ivory in China and South East Asia, this author exhorting his Chinese and other readers to goad and shame their respective governments into shedding moral obtuseness and squelching the demand for elephant tusks

-- somebody’s exasperating obtuseness; Congressman Todd Akin’s obtuse remarks about rape costing him the election

-- the fact that the U.S. Senate failed to pass commonsense background checks for gun buyers even in the wake of the murder of 20 elementary school children at Sandyhook bespeaks of the level of obtuseness that prevails in Congress


-- following the execution of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s uncle for, among other reasons, applauding only tepidly during the dictator’s speeches, you can bet that the people of that Stalinist state will be even more fawning and subservient when in the presence of Jong-Un;  some in Iran showing blind subservience to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei

-- in our business, product quality is of preeminent importance, so cost reduction targets must always be subservient to quality goals 

-- you’ll witness a lot of deference and subservience when Sharon, our founder and CEO, is running a meeting

-- a medical study that gives the impression of being objective but is actually subservient to the interests of the pharmaceutical industry that paid for it and which, therefore, uses select pieces of data to arrive at its conclusions

-- in many companies, HR playing a subservient role and often being overruled by operations and sales execs

© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Adopting the Posture of a Supplicant to Disarm a Superior When You Have to Say something very Disagreeable or Unpalatable

If you are a “Downton Abbey” aficionado, you’ll probably recognize the scene in the video clip below which is from Episode 3, first aired in January 2013.  It occurs when Lord Grantham is told that his wealth has evaporated, thanks to a big investment having gone south.

Notice that just as the bearer of ill tidings (i.e., the person in whose office this meeting is taking place) is about to say that it is Lord Grantham himself who is to blame for that lousy investment decision, he suddenly becomes extremely disarming and apologetic by radically changing his sitting posture and lowering his voice--he assumes the posture of a supplicant, just the thing to do when you are telling your boss that it is he (or she) who screwed up!

Bottom line: When you need to disarm someone and minimize any offense, in addition to using verbal techniques (such as those discussed in my seminars and mentioned in some of the previous posts on disarming), this “physical” or nonverbal, posture-transforming, technique can be a big help, especially when you have to tell your superior face-to-face that he or she is/was wrong!
© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tip for My Caucasian Readers on How to Create a High-Impact Attire: Capitalize on the Colors in Your Facial Skin When Selecting a Tie

My first post on how to select an appropriate tie (November 28, 2012), which had an accompanying video clip of Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee to illustrate my point, focused on how someone with light hair could look sharp by picking a tie of somewhat matching color (i.e., matching the color of his hair) and then anchoring the rest of the attire around it. The harmony thus created significantly enhanced the person’s facial glow and his overall appearance.

Well, an alternate starting point for picking a high-impact attire is for a man to select a tie that matches one of the hues that are in his facial skin and then anchor the rest of the attire around it. The video clip below shows Sen. Bob Corker wearing a tie which matches the dominant color of the upper half of his face. Note that this particular approach is especially easy for Caucasian men. Why?  Because of the gradation of pinkish and reddish hues that usually exists on the face of the typical Caucasian, thus allowing him to pick a tie from a wide range of matching and pleasing colors.

My compliments to the exemplary Sen. Corker, a man who knows how to capitalize on the silver gray of his hair and the range of colors embedded in his facial skin.

© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal