Tuesday, June 30, 2015

ISIS is “Expanding Like an Oil Slick”; Justice Kennedy’s “Veins Sticking Out in His Neck” -- Visual, Evocative Expression to Emphasize Something

Here are some recent examples of articulate people 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.

  • During a five day period late last month, terrorists expressing fealty to ISIS made sensational strikes in Africa, Asia, and Europe. They attacked a beach resort in Tunisia, a mosque in Kuwait, an American industrial firm in France, and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Shortly thereafter, former CIA director James Woolsey told BBC: “ISIS is expanding like an oil slick. They are getting more and more  bold…” 
  • [From the June 26, 2015, edition of PBS’s “Washington Week in Review”]  While discussing the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding the nationwide availability of tax subsidies under Obamacare (a 6-3 ruling, thanks to Roberts and Kennedy siding with the four liberal justices), panelist Pete Williams of NBC drew the following contrast with the Court’s previous high-profile ruling on Obamacare--the one in 2012, when only Roberts sided with the four liberals: “…In 2012, Anthony Kennedy was just, veins sticking out in his neck, opposed to the law. This time, granted it was a different question, he was all along with the chief justice.” 
© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal

Answer to Yesterday’s Quick Quiz

To make sense of this post, you need to first read the previous one, which asks you to identify the mispronounced word in each of three video clips.

Clip #1: The mispronounced word is hydra (at the approx. 13-second mark, when the interviewer says “an enemy that is a many-headed hydra…,” mispronouncing hydra as heed-ruh). The correct pronunciation: hy-druh.

Clip #2: The mispronounced word is mores (at the approx. 16-second mark, when Michael Gerson says “change in sexual mores that you see in Hollywood…,” mispronouncing mores as mawrz). The correct pronunciation: mawr-ays, with the second syllable -ays rhyming with the word “days.”

Clip #3: The mispronounced word is hyperbole (at the approx. 5-second mark, when Chuck Todd says “perhaps it was a bit of hyperbole…,” pronouncing hyper as in such words as hyperactive, hypercritical, hypersensitive). The correct pronunciation: hy-puhr-buh-lee. Note the stress on the second syllable -puhr.

Why bother? 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 February, 2013, 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 picked up the highfalutin terms while preparing for the interview or presentation.

© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal

Monday, June 29, 2015

Quick Quiz: Identify the Mispronounced Words in the Three Clips Below

Lately, I’ve come across an unacceptably high incidence of mispronunciations by media personalities. Here are a few from just the past three days.

But first, my customary declaration for posts on “mispronounced words”: The objective is NOT to denigrate or ridicule someone. Instead, I feature such posts in the belief that if a highly educated person, especially a well-known media personality, 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.

Each of the three video clips below contains a mispronounced word. Can you identify it? Note that in clip #1, i.e., first clip from the top, the error is by interviewer William Brangham—the fellow in a tie.  And in case you are interested, here is the context for each:

Clip #1, from “PBS NewsHour” of Friday, June 26, 2015--the discussion is about ISIS (or Islamic State) which, supposedly, was responsible for three terrorist acts earlier that day--one in Tunisia, one in France, and one in Kuwait.

Clip #2, also from the same edition of “PBS NewsHour,” features Michael Gerson, a speech writer for President George W. Bush and now a Washington Post columnist, discussing the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on gay marriage earlier that day.

Clip #3 is from yesterday’s edition of “Meet the Press.” Here, host Chuck Todd is referring to the many notable political events of last week—a week which several Washington watchers have described as Barack Obama’s most successful since he became president.

Answers in my next post--tomorrow (Tuesday) evening!

© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Vocabulary Expansion Words: New Edition of “Words of the Month”

Have you looked at the latest edition of Words of the Month,” my free vocabulary enrichment feature, which has been online since early June? Here are 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. sangfroid
2. malefactor
3. odious
4. immutable
5. idolatrous
6. phalanx

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Glaring Solecism: Dylann Roof, Perpetrator of the Charleston Church Shootings, a “Gentleman”?

In the six days since that stunning massacre of nine African Americans in a church in Charleston, leading South Carolinians have, justifiably, used such terms as “a hardcore white supremacist,” “an extreme racist,” and “an embodiment of evil” to describe the 21-year-old perpetrator, Dylann Roof. There has been an outpouring of equally strong denunciations from prominent Americans elsewhere.

So, you can imagine my annoyance and indignation when, during yesterday’s edition of the “Diane Rehm Show,” the highly respected Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne used the word gentleman while referring to Dylann Roof.  “Unforgivably thoughtless of Dionne, considering his vast experience as a guest on NPR and other radio programs,” I immediately remarked to myself. When it comes to more appropriate words, Dionne had a choice of numerous alternatives—man, person, individual, fellow, killer, shooter…I could go on.

[E.J. Dionne’s exact words--“…it became very clear as the weekend unfolded that this gentleman was motivated by a deep racism...”--were in response to Rehm’s opening question and can be seen at the 10:08:25 mark in the transcript: https://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2015-06-22/gun-homicides-mass-violence-and-racism-in-the-u-s]

Of course, E.J. Dionne’s solecism is not the first time I’ve heard a radio or TV guest apply the word gentleman for the perpetrator of something heinous. Time and again, I hear law enforcement officers commit the same “crime,” i.e., “murder” the word gentleman by using it when referring to, say, a terrorist, a rapist, or an armed burglar.

Bottom line--The thing to ponder for my blog readers is: Has society become so reflexive, so robotic, in its use of gentleman that the word has lost its complimentary sense and is now no more than a synonym for “a male adult”?  In other words, using the word gentleman for a criminal is no longer an impropriety?
© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal