Creative commentary plus crafty composition

In eastern Canada warmer we’re slowly moving toward seasonally warm weather.

Combine this with the first holiday weekend of this cross-over season, AKA the Victoria Day weekend (AKA what references to the monarchy are mostly good for these days). One can feel the relaxed call, to a mind-set well-served by some well-spent exposure to words.

One of the ongoing elements of self-improvement in communication is a broader vocabulary.  As a supplement to the last post, here are more words from our Toastmasters club library, which have been featured in meetings as ‘word of the day’. The correct answers appear after the list of options:

  • ACYROLOGIA: Does this refer to inappropriate or improper language, physical gestures, or diet?
  • AEGIS: Does this concern protection or support of legislation, of procedures, or of people or organizations?
  • CONTUMACIOUS: Does this adjective describe eating habits, stubborn behaviour, or lack of coordination?
  • DOUGHTY: Would someone with this characteristic be more slow, confident, or discouraged?
  • ENDEMIC: True or false – this word is used as both an adjective and a noun
  • HETERODOX: Is someone with this quality apt to think as a freethinker or as a conformist?
  • LOGORRHOEA: Does someone with this tendency talk slowly, with a stutter, or excessively?
  • LUCENT: True or false – this relates to more to internal than external appearance
  • MELLIFLUOUS: True or false – this word is used as an adverb as well as an adjective
  • OBITER DICTUM: Does this noun refer to an expression of personal opinion, or of reference to legal statute?
  • PALAVER: In which of these ways does this word not qualify, as adjective, noun, or verb?
  • PERIPATETIC: In which of these ways does this word not qualify, as adjective, noun, or verb?
  • PROPITIOUS: Is this word likely to be used in circumstances which are based on luck, are favourable, or are tenuous?
  • REDOLENT: Does this refer to something in a suggested way, an implied way, or a direct way?
  • SUBLIME: Does this condition cause people to feel compelled, satisfied, or inspired?
  • SYMBIOSIS: Does this activity relate primarily to chemistry, physics, or biology?
  • TRALATITIOUS: Yes or no – this characteristic can apply both to metaphor and to tradition
  • VERDANT: True or false – this word is used to describe depictions coloured other than green

Correct responses:

  • ACYROLOGIA: language
  • AEGIS: people or organizations
  • CONTUMACIOUS: stubborn behaviour
  • DOUGHTY: confident
  • ENDEMIC: true
  • HETERODOX: freethinker
  • LOGORRHOEA: excessively
  • LUCENT: false
  • MELLIFLUOUS: false
  • OBITER DICTUM: personal opinion
  • PALAVER: adjective
  • PERIPATETIC: verb
  • PROPITIOUS: favourable
  • REDOLENT: suggested way
  • SUBLIME: inspired
  • SYMBIOSIS: biology
  • TRALATATIOUS: yes
  • VERDANT: false

Enriching Vocabulary

One of the ongoing goals in Toastmasters is to try to broaden one’s vocabulary.

To that end, each meeting features a ‘word of the day’.  Since in recent years our club has adopted a theme of the day as well, the Grammarian is encouraged to come up with a word relating to the theme, and is ideally a little uncommon.  The club has been around for about 25 years, so we have accumulated a mini-library of words; the Grammarian can select from these if not supplying an addition to the file.

Some people debate the value of adding, into speech or writing, words which are unfamiliar to many.  Some see this as opportunity to enrich one’s language options.  It should be remembered that not only are diverse words part of language but so too are often similarly challenging idiom and jargon.

Further to the list of words from our club library discussed in a January posting, here are more to test one’s mettle.  See if you know the appropriate response:

  • ASSUAGE Does this verb refer more to satisfaction, measurement, or persuasion?
  • BUCOLIC  Is this considered an adjective or an adverb?
  • CAPACITATE Does this verb refer more to human frailties or to human capabilities?
  • EBULLIENT Would someone displaying this behaviour be uncomfortable, cheerful, or questioning?
  • EMOLLIENT Is this a quality of contemplating, being firm, or being soothing?
  • ERSTWHILE Is this word used as an adverb, an adjective, or a noun?
  • FECUND Would this type of ground be helpful for growth, poor for growth, or unrelated to growth?
  • FORFEND Used as a verb, does this imply trying to attract or trying to avoid?
  • HEGEMONY Is this a quality of being a follower, of leadership, or of being a compromiser?
  • JEJUNE Would something described this way be considered complicated or simple?
  • MENDACIOUS Is this a quality of being truthful, being untruthful, or being aggressive?
  • PERORATION Does this describe an action which is verbal or physical?
  • PROPINQUITY Are you more likely to exhibit this behaviour with friends, with correspondents, or with enemies?
  • QUIXOTIC Is this used as an adverb, an adjective, or a noun?
  • SOLECISM Does this refer to doing something correct, doing something incorrect, or making a correction?
  • UMBRAGE Is one apt to be appeased, confused, or disturbed in this context?

The correct responses follow:

  • ASSUAGE satisfaction
  • BUCOLIC  adjective
  • CAPACITATE capabilities
  • EBULLIENT cheerful
  • EMOLLIENT soothing
  • ERSTWHILE adjective
  • FECUND helpful
  • FORFEND avoid
  • HEGEMONY leadership
  • JEJUNE simple
  • MENDACIOUS untruthful
  • PERORATION verbal
  • PROPINQUITY friends
  • QUIXOTIC adjective
  • SOLECISM incorrect
  • UMBRAGE disturbed

Being in ‘Ahh’ Voice

An article in the April issue of Psychology Today focuses on an issue familiar with those of us in Toastmasters, but to some extent with a somewhat different, even favourable, position.

One goal in Toastmasters continuously is to reduce, ideally weed out, filler words and sounds; the point of view expressed in Psychology Today is that the person or circumstances dictate some flexibility in applying such a strategy.

Thus, what many regularly view as distracting interjections – ums and ahs, you knows, etc. – rather may be heard as “tiny conversational tools, gently guiding dialogue forward”.  The author posits that filler words “signal that the speaker is having trouble producing a thought” – no argument from Toastmasters here – and that such utterances “ask the listener to stay tuned while the problem is resolved”.  The Toastmasters perspective takes more into account the listener, who’s trying to decipher continuity in the message.

The author also asserts that filler words ‘alert listeners’ – as opposed to distracting them – so they will pay greater attention to what follows.  This may be so at times, but in my experience the listener is just as likely focused on piecing the flow together.

What many in Toastmasters would also question is a research finding that filler words can actually be positive aids to understanding and remembering a message.  I can recall a speaker of some repute at a World Press Freedom Day luncheon, whose continually ending sentences with filler words was quite frustrating, generating the opposite result.

It is fair to point out that context does influence the desirability of limiting verbal pauses.  For example, verbal distractions will negatively impact a job interview or public presentation; but in casual conversation they come across as a more natural part of speaking, and ‘perfect speech’ could even be unsettling.

Other points raised in the article would seem somewhat less contentious.

Speaking in a higher-pitched versus a lower-pitched voice is generally a disadvantage.  There are occupations, such as opera singers, where the former quality is rewarded. But usually, a lower voice is considered more appealing, more likely to enhance credibility.  A common feeling is that “low voices signal a more aggressive, dominant, and confident individual”.  Consider those who do audio work for commercials: a commanding type of voiceover is typically what we hear.

Nervousness tends to cause a voice to be higher when speaking in public.  Those aware of this can try to modulate their tone in response.

Talking rapidly can be a ‘six of one, half a dozen of another’ characteristic.  Many have a perception of fast talkers as displaying charisma, in the sense of feeling there is a connection ‘between speed and fluency’.  On the other hand, talking too quickly can come across as nervousness which makes it difficult for listeners to get the whole message.  Those with this tendency would be well-served to slow down especially during important addresses.  Situations can also help the speaker more proactively alter speech speed, such as in talking with a child.

Like it or not, perceptions about others’ accents is quite subjective.  Someone in one culture will hear foreign accents as more intelligent than if from another culture.  Those with familiar region accents are often viewed as more approachable.  Accent familiarity tends to correlate with being perceived as knowledgeable and trustworthy.

There is an inherent bias to favouring those in one’s own group, as impacted by accent.  As one becomes an adult, interactions can arise where such a bias can cause problems, such as in interviews or public encounters.  According to research, having a confident tone can help offset the inclinations of bias.

A picture may be worth a thousand words – but if those words are verbalized, fillers and unintended perceptions may challenge the idea that the picture is seen completely.

After a very tough winter, slowing ebbing away this week officially but not in evidence, let’s remember that some expressions shift to another side of their connotations…

  • ‘White out conditions’ refer mainly to the need to correct typos
  • ‘Bundling up’ means trying to combine services for a cheaper rate
  • ‘Skating on thin ice’ focuses on one’s status in the workplace or relationships
  • A ‘Blanket of snow’ reverts to its rightful place as a soft assessment of political bafflegab
  • ‘Breaking the ice’ relates to reducing the size of ice cubes for drinks
  • The ‘tip of the iceberg’ alludes to the gradual rise of problems not previously evident in a project
  • Dealing with a ‘cold snap’ means handling a number of people feeling weakened by a virus
  • ‘Putting something on ice’ becomes a desirable option for diluting the effects of heat
  • Being ‘left out in the cold’ becomes more hurtful, because it’s not dependent on temperature
  • Feeling ‘snowed under’ identifies the emergence of projects put on hiatus during the winter

 

 

 

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