Phrasing…

The other day, a random person at Chipotle reminded me of one of the best movie quotes of all time.

While the lady at Chipotle wasn’t quoting The Princess Bride, her anger and vitriol did manage to get her kicked out of the restaurant. I didn’t know it was possible to get kicked out of a Chipotle. Getting kicked out of a Chipotle for being angry is like getting kicked out of a K-Mart for being dressed too nicely, in that it’s nearly impossible because no one in their right mind does it. Just like K-Mart has security who will turn you away if your sweatpants do not feature at least two sweat stains, the smell of the food at Chipotle could pacify nearly any human being((This post is not sponsored by Chipotle in any way…it’s just really delicious and I love it.)).

Long story short, this lady came into a Chipotle with a rather lengthy line during a busy time of the day. She ordered seven burrito bowls((Common courtesy would dictate that such a large order be made online, but what do I know?)), all of which had special instructions. As the first of the bowls went down the line, someone made a mistake, which they caught before they were done. Said employees trashed the bowl and started over, but not before our angry lady saw and immediately started screaming for a manager. Literally screaming. Her insults ranged from mild insults about the intelligence of the staff, to abusive makes about the race of the largely African-American and Hispanic staff. Needless to say, she was kicked out, but not before getting her food for free.

As the lady exited the restaurant, people in line began cracking jokes about her…rather loudly at that. It was at that point when she shouted back a sentence that made me wonder why she even bothered to open her mouth.

“I hope all of you Communists enjoy making this Socialist company richer with your government money!” — Some idiot at Chipotle

I’m going to ignore the absurdity of her statement and its numerous inaccuracies for the majority of this post. I have no desire to get into a political discussion today, especially one that may well attract individuals who believe that the above quote makes sense((It doesn’t.)). The purpose to this post is to address the importance of carefully choosing the words we say, so as to have a greater impact on those we’re speaking to, not to mention to avoid sounding like an uneducated person.

In recent months, I’ve had to do quite a bit of reading and watching trainings as a result of my job. One of the individuals I’ve most enjoyed is Julian Treasure, a public speaking and sound expert. One of Treasure’s videos talks about the importance of vocabulary in communication, in particular focusing on the narrowing of the modern vocabulary to the point where words are beginning to lose their meaning.

Take the word awesome, for example. In its literal definition, when something is so powerful or amazing that it inspires reverence, respect, wonder and dread. That’s an absurdly complex definition that should be used for things capable of destroying cities at minimum. In a colloquial sense, however, the word awesome is rarely used for such a circumstance, while it is more commonly used as an expression the describe how delicious your ramen is((to be fair, if it’s Maruchan’s picante chicken ramen, you’re not really that far off in your description)).

I’m certainly guilty of overusing some words. Most commonly, I’ll do it either to fit into the conversation I’m part of, or because I don’t know better words to replace them with. While I generally consider myself to be a very knowledgeable speaker with a diverse vocabulary, I have my own shortcomings in my vocabulary. When those moments arise, I find myself struggling to use exactly the word I need to get exactly the point I want to make across. That harms my point, that harms my credibility, and it can also harm the emotions of the person I’m speaking to.

While I do work regularly to expand my vocabulary, merely knowing big words does not mean that one knows how to use them properly. That comes with practice, repetition, and research. Those actions are how we can improve ourselves in any endeavor, not just in speaking. As we work to save what may well be a dying language from those who would look to oversimplify it, I encourage you to pause — if only for a moment — before you speak to consider the words you say. Will the words that you speak say exactly what you want when heard by another person? If so, that’s fantastic. If not, perhaps seek out a new way to state the same thing. You’ll find your conversations are more impactful, not to mention more well-received.

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2 thoughts on “Phrasing…

  1. Can we talk about pronunciation, too? Because my husband’s vocabulary is at least as big as mine is but he doesn’t know how to say, like, a LOT of them properly. It takes away the power of his stellar word choice when I’m like “yeah, it’s pronounced ‘in-dite’ not ‘in-dict.'”

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    1. One of my friends picks on me a lot for the way I pronounce the word antenna. Apparently saying “ann-tan-ah” is really weird to most people. I also say “pee-can” instead of “pick-ahn”, so there’s that. Woo southern family while growing up in Ohio.

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