hodu.com Your Gateway to Better Communication Skills
Home   Everyday Social Skills  Business Communication   Resource Guide   About Azriel   Videos  Blog

Assertiveness skills
Body language
Communicating with
your children

Conversation skills
Difficult People
Emotional Maturity
Enhancing your marriage
Family Life
Interpersonal relationships
Speaking skills
Writing skills

Business ethics
Business etiquette
Business writing
Communication in
the workplace

Cross-cultural communication
Conflict resolution
Creative thinking
Crisis management
Customer relations
Effective meetings
Job-hunting skills
Management strategies
Marketing communication
Negotiating skills
Networking in business
Presentation skills
Team building
Technology and communication
Telephone marketing

Relationships that really stick!
The e-book that changed lives now available as an attractive paperback

Strong,warm relationships are
a major key to happiness. No tricks, no secrets! Just solid, time-proven advice for a happier life - for you and those near and dear to you!
More details here

"A bountiful book of powerfully practical insights on how to make friends and cultivate deeper, satisfying relationships over time. It makes a great gift, basis for a course or team conversation - or a personal primer for a more meaningful life - with others."
--Kare Anderson SayItBetter.com

Buy it here or at your favorite online book store!

Do You Use Wrong Words?

Using the wrong words can cause misunderstanding. Their use can also cause offense or result in you looking foolish.

by Loren Ekroth, Ph.D.

Here are 3 ways your words could be wrong:

  • Using a similar-sounding but incorrect word.
  • Using a "50-cent word" when a common word is clearer.
  • Using an inappropriate social level ("register") of words, such as formal words for a casual situation.

1. Similar sounding words

Below are some examples of the "foolish" wrong kind.The words in bold are examples of malapropisms -- which are similar sounding words that may have humorous results.

"That's another thing. I don't want to hear anymore how it was in your day. From now on, keep your antidotes (correct word: anecdotes) to local color, like Dynoflow or the McGuire Sisters." (Tony Soprano to "Feech" La Manna in The Sopranos)

"A witness shall not bear falsies (correct: false witness)against thy neighbor." (Archie Bunker in All in the Family)

"Republicans understand the importance of bondage (correct: bonding) between a mother and child." -former Vice President Dan Quayle

"I'm going to put people in my place, so when the history of this administration is written at least there's an authoritarian (correct: authoritative)voice saying exactly what happened." -George W. Bush, March 17, 2009, on what he hopes to accomplish with his memoir.

It's easy to confuse similar sounding words, as with the word prodigal (one who squanders resources) and prodigy (an unusually talented young person.)

2. "Fifty-cent" words

Sometimes speakers employ inflated or unusual words in order to sound "educated" or authoritative. Some professionals are prone to such use, e.g., professors, medical doctors, engineers, and attorneys. (Also, some trades persons like auto mechanics and computer tech people.) When they speak to us ordinary folks in specialized languages or with "big words," they easily confuse us.

(When I was a graduate student in communication studies, a few professors preferred the word bifurcate to the simpler word divide. However, sometimes when precision of meaning is required, special words like "malapropism" or "register" work best.)

Here is a funny example with lofty words certain to confuse most hearers:

"Let your conversation possess a clarified conciseness, compacted comprehensibleness, coalescent consistency, and a concatenated cogency. Eschew all conglomerations of flatulent garrulity, jejune babblement, and asinine affectations. Let your extemporaneous descantings and unpremeditated expatiations have intelligibility, without rhodomontade or thrasonical bombast. Sedulously avoid all polysyllabical profundity, pompous prolixity, and ventriloquial vapidity. Shun double-entendre and prurient jocosity, whether obscure or apparent. In other words, speak truthfully, naturally, clearly, purely, but do not use large words."
--Michael Quinion, publisher of World Wide Words (passed on by my friend Bob Kelly, publisher of the monthly Kellygram, Wisdom and Wit About the Wonderful and Often Wacky World of Words. (It's available free at Bob's website.

3. Socially inappropiate words

Words in an inappropriate social register can cause offense. In linguistics, a register is a variety of a language used for a particular purpose or in a particular social setting. For example, an intimate register is usually used between close friends or family members and may include a private vocabulary, special nicknames, and standing jokes known only to those persons.

A subscriber sent me an example of using an inappropriate register. She is an elegant senior lady who shared that sometimes young waitresses would address her and her lady friends with "What can I get for you guys?" Very off-putting, indeed!

Here in Las Vegas, both supermarket cashiers and cocktail waitresses casually address customers as "Hon," but no one is offended because virtually everyone is addressed this same way. (Yesterday evening the cashier called the woman ahead of me "Honey," then called me "Hon.")

Registers are on a spectrum from intimate to frozen (extremely fixed in word choice and tone, such as in oaths, pledges, and biblical quotations.)

Casual is the most common register among friends and co-workers. It includes slang, frequent interruptions, and animated speech.

For business and professional relationships, the consultative register is usually appropriate, such as between teacher-student, doctor-patient, salesperson-customer, waiter-guest.

I am put off by strangers I encounter at professional meetings that immediately use a "buddy-buddy" register as if we're old friends. I become wary when they assume a close relationship that doesn't exist. (The appropriate register with strangers is casual, not intimate.)

I acknowledge that today's article is a bit more technical than usual, and I hope you found it to be both interesting and practical.

Loren Ekroth © 2012, All rights reserved

Reprinted from Better Conversations, an ezine featuring articles and tips to enhance conversation skills. Subscribe free and receive immediate access to 32 articles at www.conversationmatters.com. Loren Ekroth, Ph.D. is a specialist in human communication and an international expert on conversation for business and social life. His articles and programs strengthen critical communication skills for business and professional people.


How to confidently talk and make friends - especially if you're shy


NO fee
NO catch
NO wasted time ENROL NOW

Search for further content on the topic of your choice:
Home   Effective Communication Skills  Business Communication   Resource Guide    About Azriel