I spent a fabulous couple of hours at the local bookfest over the weekend, and the temptation was almost overwhelming. I say ‘almost’ because the reality of finding room for all my books is proving problematic. However, as you know, I am a loyal creature and one doesn’t throw ones friends out simply because you have run out of room – you stack them on the floor of course!

However, I did venture to purchase just one or two newcomers to the home library, and one was on the “World’s Most Difficult Tongue Twisters” so watch out all you addicts that accuse me of being soft with the monthly challenge. I am on my mettle now.

Another was about the idiosyncrasies of the English Language (I am a bit of a fan when it comes to the language) and it had a list of the most underused words. Now what would you think was the most underused word in the English language?

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious was for many years the outright winner, but Mary Poppins put a stop to that – then Sesquipedalian took over in my opinion. But isn’t life strange, just when you think that no-one in the world knew the word, it pops up everywhere. I noticed it happened to ‘louche’ and of course, Trischel’s word of the year “segue’.

The English Language is rife with astounding and unusual words that once were commonplace (however I cannot think that supercalifrag…etc was ever commonplace); and searching out and discovering what they mean and how they can be used, can put a new light on any dinner conversation. It is certainly well known there are some people who just love dropping comments like “as an antidisestablishmentarian, I oppose the separation of church from state” over the roast duck … but it can make for difficult conversation; and I doubt if it ever leads to good communication.

While, I am not a fan of ‘dumbing down’ our speech (I believe that can be seen as being superciliously arrogant”) – I do believe that we need to be understood by all our listeners, not just the chosen few.

We have previously spoken to the point about organising our thoughts so that our audience can follow the logic of our arguments. This is part of the intellectual face of communication. But also necessary is the need for us to use appropriate language to convey our message in order that it can be clearly understood. The words we choose have a dynamic impact on the way our thoughts are received.

We should (I hope) realise that we cannot use scientific terms when speaking to non-scientific audiences, and that we should never use trade specific jargon when talking to those outside the club! But it should go further. If we are addressing third year uni students we can dazzle them with our erudition and go out with a blaze of glory. However, I feel we cannot expect that everyone who listens to us will immediately recognise our unusual words or 17th century literary tags (As Sam Johnson once said!)

Now, I have been a little naughty in this essay as I have used so not-so-usual words in place of more commonly understood ones, but I feel that anyone would get the sense of what I am saying, and of course you are encouraged to highlight words you do not recognise and look them up in a dictionary … which is fine when you are reading, you have the time to do that, and if not you can bookmark it to come back to later.

Such luxury is not available to a public speaker, to a trainer or to a sales rep. In these instances we need to make sure that our audience understands us immediately. In these cases I would never rely on words like ‘inherent’ or ‘supercilious’ – I would say something like ‘within’ or just leave the word ‘arrogant’ unadorned.

This is simple common sense. Spoken communication is more than conversation; it means a deliberate attempt to communicate clearly an idea, an opinion or a specific thought. It cannot disappear down ‘on second-thoughts’ side tracks, and should never fade out into a completely different subject. And we need to add to that, it should never be so weighed down with difficult and unusual words that it sinks into oblivion.

Words are wonderful …but – they need to be chosen wisely.

Michele @ Trischel

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