Podcasts

Show Notes for Episode #24 – Pusillanimous

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.

Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance. A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.
Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.

And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.

Do you sometimes feel the need to characterize an act as not only cowardly, but contemptible, and small-minded or small-spirited? There’s a useful and expressive word that almost literally means all those things.

It’s pusillanimous, spelled p-u-s-i-l-l-a-n-i-m-o-u-s. It means timid and showing a lack of fortitude.
You’d use it this way: The failure to deal with or even acknowledge the abuses of the rogue CEO betrayed a pusillanimous board of directors who put profit before decency.

The origin of the word, as so often happens, gives you some hints in decoding not only its definition but is implications. It comes from the Latin pusillus, which means extremely small and insignificant. The other half of the word comes from the Latin animus, which means spirit.

There are many synonyms but with different shades of meaning. Cowardly, timid, fearful are all fine if you only want to invoke the meaning of being afraid. But pusillanimous adds an additional layer of contempt, in that it implies the person or action is of small spirit, morals, or mind.

Use this word only if you want to layer on those implications. It is an accurate but bold word – not suitable for use by the pusillanimous.

Thanks for listening. As always, a review and a link are always appreciated. Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts. And should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).

This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

 

Show Notes for Episode #23 – Lachrymose

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.
Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance. A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.
Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.
And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.
No one wants to deny anyone else a moment of sorrow, but when tears are used as manipulation there’s an excellent word to characterize the ploy. It’s lachrymose, spelled l-a-c-h-r-y-m-o-s-e. It means tearful, or disposed to weep.
You would use it this way: His lachrymose public apology seemed to show, behind the drama, that he was more sorry about being caught that he was sorry about the act itself.
The word comes from a Greek word that was adapted to Latin — “lacrima,” which means “tear.” Lacrima is still in use as a medical term for tears and the lacrimal glands that produce them.
“Lachrymose” is a powerful word because it implies – but doesn’t come right out and claim — that the weeping behavior is insincere or overplayed. You won’t find that connotation in many dictionary definitions, but in my observation that’s the common usage that has evolved.
There are many synonyms with a close meaning. If you’re referring to someone’s general character and don’t wish to imply insincerity, you’re better off with “mournful,” “sorrowful.” If you’re looking for a word to express a generally sad environment, try “dolorous,” an excellent adjective that you can also apply to music or literature that expresses an atmosphere of grief.
If you’re just indicating a physical action, stick with something neutral like “weepy.”
But for those occasions when you think a display is over the top and perhaps calculated, lachrymose gives you the shade of meaning that you need.
Thanks for listening. As always, a review and a link are always appreciated.

 

Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts.
And should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).
This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

 

Show Notes for Episode #22 – Jejune

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.

Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance.  A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.

Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.

And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.

We’re all familiar with the type of intellectually barren blather that is naïve, superficial, and based on, well, nothing.

There’s a word that conveys this dual concept – barren and juvenile – with precision.  It’s “jejune,” spelled j-e-j-u-n-e.  It means juvenile and having no significance or substance.

You use it this way:  His latest novel is intended as political satire, but the approach is so jejune that it’s actually embarrassing.

The key to understanding this word is in the origin: It’s from the Latin “ieiunus,” which means barren of food.  You can find this root in human anatomy in the second part of the small intestine, the jejunum, so named because when early scientists dissected cadavers, it was usually empty of food.

Jejune works for you because it intrinsically links the concepts of intellectual emptiness with the concept of being uninteresting and the notion that the material is unimportant – and that’s the trifecta of dismissal of an argument or claim.

There are workable synonyms but each hits only part of the concept you get across with jejune.  “Vapid” is a good word indicating something that is lacking in interest or originality, and “puerile” is excellent for describing immature behavior or ideas.

But neither word, nor their combinations, has the precision and power of jejune.

Thanks for listening.  As always, a review and a link are always appreciated.  Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts.  And should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).

This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

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Show Notes for Episode #21 – Odious

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.

Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance. A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.

Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.

And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.

Are you looking for a word that expresses just the right blend of hatred, offense, and disgust? The word is “odious” spelled o-d-i-o-u-s. It means offensive, worthy of contempt, and foul.

You use it this way: “This proposal is particularly odious in that it’s based in the idea of promoting hatred between the two groups.”
Odious is a great word for characterizing policies and ideas that repel you because it has that connotation of something you not only hate but for which you hold intellectual contempt. Many early uses of the word involved disputes about theology, and that implication of something being a hateful policy or thought lingers in many modern-day incarnations.

The word comes from the Latin “odium,” which means hatred, which is a very good English word for the noun form of “odious.” “Odium” is one of the Latin words we’ve taken wholesale and dropped into the language in its original form.

Don’t mix up “odious” with “odiferous” and other words that relate to “odor” and smelling bad. You might want those words in similar situations, but “odious” is the word to capture the concept of hatred based against an idea or action.
There aren’t a lot of words that come directly from “odium” except for a few that took a roundabout path, such as “annoy,” which has as its ancestor “inodiare,” Latin for “to cause repulsion.”

So use odious with care, because it’s a strong word, but if you mean it, it means exactly what you want to say.
Thanks for listening. As always, a review and a link are always appreciated. Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts. And should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).

This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

Subscribe on iTunes

Show Notes for Episode #20 – Perfidy

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.

Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance.  A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.

Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.

And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.

If you are familiar with Dante’s Inferno, you may remember that in that allegory the most horrible circle of hell was reserved not for the lustful, or the gluttonous, or the violent but for the betrayers – the people who broke faith.

There is a perfect and powerful word to express the deepest level of betrayal: perfidy, spelled p-e-r-f-i-d-y.  It means a willful and treacherous breach of faith.

You use it this way: “The company’s deliberate mishandling of the funds of elderly investors is a sickening example of the perfidy of these rogue investment firms.”

The adjective form of the word is “perfidious.”

“Perfidy” is easy to remember because it literally means breaking faith.  “Per” is Latin meaning going through or beyond, and fide is Latin for “faith.”  Forms of “fide” show up in all sorts of words and names such as “fidelity,” which in audio is used to refer to faithfulness to the original sound, to “bona fide” meaning “good faith,” and to the name of Abe Lincoln’s faithful dog “Fido.”

“Perfidy” is a strong word for a number of reasons.  First of all, it sounds ugly: Even if you don’t know what it means, “perfidy” just doesn’t resonate as a good quality. Secondly, the word connotes all the aspects of the worst form of betrayal – deception to one who is faithful, deliberate duplicity, and treachery.

Use with caution because it doesn’t apply to anything casual or accidental.  When you accuse someone of perfidy, you are figuratively telling saying that person to go to hell – the ninth circle, to be exact.

Thanks for listening.  As always, a review and a link are always appreciated.  Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts.  Aand should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).

This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

 

Subscribe on iTunes

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.

Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance.  A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.

Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.

And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.

How do you characterize the clichéd “bright shiny object” – something that looks alluring but actually has no value?

If you really want to ascribe that characterization in a very strong way the word is “meretricious” [spelling].  It means something that is cheaply attractive, tawdry, garish, but in the end deceptively appealing.

You use it this way:  “The company’s glossy sales brochure proved in the end to be a meretricious façade for a worthless investment scheme.”

It’s a strong word, so use with caution…and the reason I say that is because “meretricious,” in a roundabout way, derives from a term for “prostitute.”

The Latin root “merere” means “to earn,” and so it shares a positive common ancestor with words such as “merit.”  But an adaptation of that word, “meretrix,” meaning “woman who earns money,” evolved into “prostitute,” and that word begat “meretricious,” meaning “related to prostitutes,” which then evolved to its current usage.

This word works for you because it actively expresses a great measure of contempt.  It combines the notion of something that looks good but is worthless, as expressed in the largely value-free word “spurious,” with the moral condemnation embodied by words such as “garish.”

So if you want to say that a conclusion is meaningless because the cause and effect don’t add up, “spurious” or “misleading” are better choices, and if you just mean that something overly showy or tasteless, stick with something like “lurid.”

But when you want to condemn motive, “meretricious” is one of the most powerful guns in your arsenal.

Thanks for listening.  As always, a review and a link are always appreciated.  Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts.  And should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).

This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

 

Subscribe on iTunes

Show Notes for Episode #18 – Turgid

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.

Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance. A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.

Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.

And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.

Looking for the perfect word to skewer something that’s pompous and overblown? Try “turgid,” spelled t-u-r-g-i-d.

It means being swollen or distended, and aside from its clichéd use in bad erotica, it is an uncannily accurate term for writing or speaking that is stiff, inflated, overlarge, and ultimately pretentious.

You use it this way: “The author bombarded us with 20 turgid pages that ultimately made only one point: that much academic writing is self-indulgent, overstuffed, and ultimately not worth reading.”

The word comes from the Latin turgidus, meaning to swell.

Turgid works for you because it has a slightly comic air to it…the comparison to something all swollen and stiff and abnormally distended leaves little doubt that you’re ridiculing something or someone, but you don’t have to use blunt force.

There are synonyms but they don’t carry exactly the same connotation. “Tumescent” comes from the same Latin root, at it means “swollen,” but sometimes carries a positive meaning, such as a ripe, tumescent fruit.

You can also use words that more directly mean what you imply, such as “overblown” or “pompous,” but you lose the subtle slyness of your attack by coming right out and saying what you mean.

Don’t mix up “turgid” with “turbid,” with a “b”. Turbid means murky, and as such shares a similar meaning but it’s not a synonym. Also, don’t mix up turgid with “torpid,” which means slow and lethargic.

So, remember – when you want to characterize something as stiff and overblown, don’t become turgid and wordy…just deploy this excellent, crafty word.

Thanks for listening. As always, a review and a link are always appreciated. Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts. And should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).

This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

Subscribe on iTunes

Show Notes for Episode #17 – Brobdingnagian

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.

Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance. A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.

Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.

And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.

Author Jonathan Swift is one of those rare people who added words to the English language. During Gulliver’s Travels Gulliver encountered the Yahoo – a rube – and the Lilliputian – a tiny person who has a very tiny, petty world-view.

Both words have found their way into standard English, along with a very useful but underused term: brobdingnagian. The Brobdingnags were colossal – more than 60 feet tall – and everything about their society was outsized.

While Swift generally painted a favorable view of the Brobdingnags in his satirical work, brobdingnagian has taken on a slightly negative overtone, meaning something ludicrously outsized, unwieldy.

You use it this way: “The bureaucracy created to implement the measure is so brobdingnagian that despite good intentions, the system collapsed of its own weight.”
The word works for you because it captures the cartoonish aura of something just absurdly large.

You can use synonyms such as titanic, mammoth, or enormous if you just want to communicate the size aspect, but when you want to get across the idea that something is too big to do anything else but fail, brobdingnagian is a colorful choice.

Thanks for listening. As always, a review and a link are always appreciated. Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts. And should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).

This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

Subscribe on iTunes

Show Notes for Episode #16 – Revanchist

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.

Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance. A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.

Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.

And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.

You’re certainly familiar with people, groups, and governments who are obsessed with gaining back real or imagined losses.

There’s a perfect word to describe this type of policy: revanchist, spelled r-e-v-a-n-c-h-i-s-t. The noun for this type of policy is revanchism. Sometimes the word is pronounced re-VAHNCH-ism. And sometimes the overall concept is indicated by the word revanche, taken directly from the French word for “revenge.”

Revanchism usually refers to a policy of continual attack in order to gain back territory, although it could refer to seeking vengeance for some other type of loss, military or otherwise.

You use it this way: “Any progress toward resolution has been derailed by the revanchist obstruction of those who feel they were short-changed by the settlement.”

As mentioned, the word comes from French, where it was popularized to describe a movement to retake territory lost in the Franco-Prussian War. The ultimate root is Latin, “re,” expressing force or repetition, and “vindicare,” meaning to claim…something akin to “claim again.”

The word works for you because it is economical and very precise, and carries with it the modern inference that a revanchist policy is obsessive and based on a desire to settle scores rather than achieve a solution.

There are no precise synonyms for revanchist of which I’m aware but there is a similar word with an important different. An “irredentist” movement seeks to reclaim territory or political control but with the specific goal of culturally or ethnically uniting areas that one group thinks belong to them…for example, a policy of trying to claim all areas where a certain language is spoken.

So, if you want to use these very precise words to take back the high ground from vague and sloppy speakers, you are a verbal revanchist and good luck to you.

Thanks for listening. As always, a review and a link are always appreciated. Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts. And should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).

This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

Subscribe on iTunes

Show Notes for Episode #15 – Contretemps

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.

Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance. A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.

Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.
And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.

There’s an unfortunate intersection in life where we bump into a situation we didn’t want to encounter and it happens at the wrong time. It’s not a tragedy, but it’s more than an inconvenience.

It is a contretemps … spelled c-o-n-t-r-e-t-e-m-p-s.

The word has two meanings – an unexpected and often embarrassing occurrence, or a small but unsettling dispute.

I believe the most effective and most common use of the word generally combines the two elements…such as, the senator was bruised by the very public contretemps with supporters of the agency he tried to de-fund.

Contretemps is from French origin and literally means something against time. The root word is the Latin contra, meaning against and the Latin word for time, tempus.

It emerged as a technical term in ballet, meaning a movement not in time with the music.

It’s one of the words we take directly from another language and still give it something of a foreign inflection. Our best pronunciation of the French inflection of the word gives a hint of an “n” at end, and indeed some people do pronounce it con-tre-ton. Other English speakers leave out the “n” and just conclude with a nasal “aww.” Unless you’re a native French speaker, you’re probably best off with just a trace of the “n” and the end of the word.

Contretemps is the perfect word to express something that involves a fairly minor confrontation that comes at a bad time. If it’s a disaster, you’re better off using that word or one similar, and if it doesn’t involve awkwardness stick with something like “mishap.”

In sum, do not find yourself facing a contretemps by having someone in the know call you out on an inaccurate usage or pronunciation.

Thanks for listening. As always, a review and a link are always appreciated. Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts. And should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).

This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

Subscribe on iTunes

Show Notes for Episode #14 – Redoubtable

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.

Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance. A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.

Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.

And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.

We all know people who are respected to such a degree that our admiration of them borders on awe, or even fear…and there’s a perfect word to express this concept: redoubtable – r-e-d-o-u-b-t-a-b-l-e.

It means formidable and in some usages of the word, fearsome.

You use it like this: “The senator projected an easy-going demeanor, but his opponents knew he was a redoubtable campaigner and vowed not to take him lightly.

Redoubtable is of French origin, from the word redouter, (reh-doo-tee), meaning “fear,” which in turn comes from the same route as our word “doubt” and the prefix “re,” which in this case ads emphasis.

Redoubtable is the perfect word to put a positive spin on someone who is feared…as far as I know, it’s the only common English word that imparts this precise meaning.

If you are looking only to express the idea that someone inspires fear, try fearsome, forbidding, or menacing. If you intend only to communicate the notion that someone is respected, try revered or honored.

But should you need to summon with pinpoint accuracy the word that includes both implications, you now have another option in the arsenal that makes you a redoubtable wordsmith.

Thanks for listening. As always, a review and a link are always appreciated. Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts. Aand should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).

This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

Subscribe on iTunes

Show Notes for Episode #13 – Recursive

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.

Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance. A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.

Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.

And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.

There is a much more elegant way to characterize something that happens over and over than just saying it happens over and over again…especially if you use that lame phrasing over and over again.

The perfect word is “recursive” — spelled r-e-c-u-r-s-i-v-e. It means characterized by continual repetition. It’s often used in mathematics to describe a formula that repeats continually on following results, but it plain English it’s a wonderful word to describe a robotically repetitive process.
You use it this way: “The measure was introduced into the legislature, only to be stalled by the recursive partisan bickering that has held up any progress for a decade.”

Recursive comes from the Latin root cursivus, which means “running,” and “re,” meaning again, and recursive means “running again or running back” to the same place. Cursivus is a prolific root, which gives us, among other things, “cursive” writing, which means putting words on paper with a running or flowing hand.

Recursive words for you because it implies a rather mindless process without exactly saying that. When you use the word to apply to human conduct you are vividly painting a picture of a process where people act predictably according to a pre-set formula.

Synonyms such as “circular” give the same idea, but don’t carry the notion of a machine-like process. “Repetitive” or “recurrent” might be more accurate for a process that happens a few times, but don’t suggest the notion of a set of circumstances that will cast an action into a never-ending cycle.
So be precise, and don’t get swept into the recursive process of letting vague expression drown out precise wording because it’s easier just to summon up a common term.

Thanks for listening. As always, a review and a link are always appreciated. Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts. And should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).

This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

 

 

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Show Notes for Episode #12 – Amorphous

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.

Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance. A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.

Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.
And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.
When something strikes you as vague or unclear, you don’t want to be vague in expressing your misgivings. So use the perfect word: amorphous, spelled a-m-o-r-p-h-o-u-s.

It means having no distinct shape, lacking a clear structure.

You use it like this: “We need some clarity in our effort to end this downturn. The rhetoric I’ve heard is inspiring, but the plans for accomplishing what we need to do are amorphous at best.”

The word origin makes it easy to remember. “A” means without, or lacking: “amoral,” for example, refers to someone who simply has no ethical rudder. “Morph” means shape, and morphology is the science of studying forms of living organisms or the structure or words. The root word “morph” has been adapted in colloquial English to mean changing from one shape to another.

Amorphous works for you because in the way we’ve used it in this definition it is effective shorthand for saying that something lacks overall design, or structure, or leadership. It’s not exactly an insult, but it gets the point across pretty clearly.

If you want to more strongly communicate the idea of vagueness, try nebulous, which carries a stronger implication of being fuzzy rather than amorphous’s implication of disorganization. Now, if you want to get across the idea that something is not fully formed because it is still in the process of being developed, try “inchoate,” –i-n-c-h-o-a-t-e. Inchoate usually doesn’t imply fault; it must means that something is formless because it is still evolving.
So, in sum, do not be amorphous in your characterization of something that is just not well defined.

Thanks for listening. As always, a review and a link are always appreciated. Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts. And should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).
This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

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Show Notes for Supercilious

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.

Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance. A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.

Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.
And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.

You know the look…the attitude – and the look — you get from the wine snob who makes it a point to sneer at your bottle with the twist cap.

There’s a perfect word that encapsulates both the attitude and the mannerism…supercilious. Spelled s-u-p-e-r-c-i-l-i-o-u-s. It means showing a contemptuous, superior attitude.

You use it like this: We raised what we thought was a reasonable objection to the policy, but our concerns were dismissed by a supercilious bureaucrat who pretty clearly thought we were not worth his time.

The origin of the word says it all. Cilium is the Latin word for eyelash or eyelid, and super means above, and the supercilium is the eyebrow – the very piece of the human anatomy that people raise when they give us that superior look.

Supercilious works for you because it captures both an attitude and an image. It very specifically characterizes an opponent’s bearing and manner, more colorfully that synonyms like snobbish.

If you’re looking for a word that more strongly expresses the idea of someone who holds contempt, try scornful. If you’re looking for a word that implies someone is not only implying that they are superior but you are stupid, try condescending. Condescending communicates that mutual linkage – they feel superior and think you are stupid – because the word literally means “descend together”. As in “I will bring myself down to your level to attempt to explain this to you.”

So remember, when someone gives that raised eyebrow and, to extend that anatomical origin of expressions, looks down his or her nose at you, you’ve got the perfect anatomically based word in reply.

Thanks for listening. As always, a review and a link are always appreciated. Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts. Aand should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).

This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

Subscribe on iTunes

Show Notes for Episode #10 – Obtuse

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.

Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance. A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.

Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.

And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.

If you want to express the notion that someone, or someone’s idea, is not particularly sharp, there’s a way to accomplish that without resorting to saying something clichéd like not the sharpest tool in the shed.
The word you’re looking for is “obtuse,” spelled o-b-t-u-s-e. It means blunt, and in the say it’s usually used suggests a lack of keenness or perception. You probably remember it from geometry class, if indeed you remember anything from geometry class – an obtuse angle doesn’t have a sharp point.

You use it this way: “I have tried to make him see what’s wrong with his plan, but he is so morally obtuse that the evil of cheating a competitor simply doesn’t occur to him.”

Obtuse comes from the Latin word “obtusus,” which means dulled by beating. In the parts of that word, “Ob” means “against” “tusus” is a form of “tundere,” which means to beat. You’ll recognize “ob” in a lot of English words, like “obstruct,” which basically means something that it against a structure, basically meaning to put a pile of something in the way of a goal.

Obtuse works for you because it clearly communicates the idea that the person just doesn’t get the concept. It’s a good word to pair with another concept, such as in the example of “morally” obtuse. You could also say “financially obtuse” or “politically obtuse.”
Be careful of mixing up obtuse with “abstruse,” which means obscure, overly abstract, or hard to follow. “Abstruse” is a great word and we’ll feature it in a future podcast, but for now remember that the misuse of obtuse to mean abstruse is so common it’s gaining some acceptance, don’t mix them up…because to an educated ear, you just might sound…well, a little obtuse.

Thanks for listening. As always, a review and a link are always appreciated. Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts. Aand should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).

This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

 

 

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Show Notes for Episode #9 – Spurious

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.
Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance. A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.
Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.
And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.
When you are confronted with evidence the purports to prove something but you don’t trust it, there’s a surgically precise word to employ: Spurious, spelled s-p-u-r-i-o-u-s.
It means something that is not genuine, not what it is presented to be, not authentic. It may look like the real thing, but it’s not…a curious aspect of the word tied to its origin – but we’ll get to that in a second.
You use it this way: “This poll purports to be an accurate representation of public opinion, but it only measured people who visited an activist website. The results of a self-selected poll are spurious at best.”
The word comes from a Latin term meaning false, but gets its implication from a usage developed in the sixteenth century – meaning illegitimate, in the sense of someone born out of wedlock.
Spurious works for you because compactly communicates the idea that “this may look like the real thing, but it’s not.”
And it does so without exactly calling your opponent a liar. Spurious is a fairly mild word among all your choices when referring to something that is not authentic. It’s often used in a benign way by scientists to mean results that initially look relevant or related but show differences on closer examination.
If you want a power word that, in my observation, more actively implies deceit, try specious. Specious implies that something is a very attractive and alluring but misleading. It actually comes from a root that means attractive – and therefore, it implies motive…that your opponent has painted a false, captivating image.
The nuclear option in this category for words meaning “not what it seems” is meretricious. It means looking ostentatiously good on the outside but being having no merit or integrity at the core. It actually comes from the Latin word for prostitute. So there.

Thanks for listening. As always, a review and a link are always appreciated. Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts. Aand should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).
This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

Subscribe on iTunes

Show Notes for Episode #8 – Schadenfreude

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.
Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance. A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.

Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.
And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.

Admit it…you sometimes feel pleasure from observing someone else’s misfortune. Everybody does – and that’s why there is a perfect word to describe this emotion.

It’s Schadenfreude (SHAH-den-froid-uh), and it means enjoying someone else’s problem or discomfort, especially when you believe that person is getting what he or she deserves.

Here’s how to use it: “There was an outpouring of political schadenfreude from his opponents after the senator, who was known to lecture everyone endlessly about integrity, was indicted for taking a bribe.”

About the Word: It’s from two German words meaning “harm” and “joy.” (If you’ve heard Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, you’ll recognize “freude” as the word repeatedly sung in the last movement, part of the “Ode to Joy” on which the choral part was based. I know you don’t care, but it’s my podcast and I’ll show off if I want to.

“Schadenfreude” is a profoundly expressive word because it compactly and uniquely communicates an emotion we all understand even if we don’t admit to harboring.
As far as I know, there are no direct synonyms for this word, making it perfect even though it’s exotic. If you accuse verbal opponents of this, and they don’t know the word, you and I can engage in some Schadenfreude as we enjoy the moment they scurry to dictionary.

Thanks for listening. As always, a review and a link are always appreciated. Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts. And should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).

This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

Subscribe on iTunes

Show Notes for Episode #7 – Eradicate

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.

Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance.  A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.

Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.

And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.

If you’re looking for the strongest possible way to say remove, the word is eradicate.  Spelled e-r-a-d-i-c-a-t-e. .It means to completely, utterly eliminate; destroy something in its entirety.

You could use it this way: “We can’t do this halfway.  We have to eradicate corruption if this agency is going to survive.”

The word is delightfully easy to remember and a joy to use because it has such a specific, powerful meaning.  It comes from the Latin term for root, the origin of “radish,” the origin of the word radical – someone who believes it the root of a movement — and it literally means extract everything, right down to the root.

“Eradicate” works for you because it’s such a no-nonsense word.  It even sounds like it means business: eradicate. When you say “eradicate,” you leave no doubt as to your meaning or your mission.

“Eradicate” is a much stronger word than “eliminate” because “eradicate” implies actively ripping out every last trace of something.  The word is forceful to the point of having an air of violence to it, so don’t use it if you don’t mean it that way.  But on the other hand, if you want a word that more strongly emphasizes mass destruction rather than removing a specific thing, try “annihilate” or “exterminate.”

Eradicate is the perfect word for when you mean pull out by the roots because, oddly enough, that’s exactly what it means.

Thanks for listening.  As always, a review and a link are always appreciated.  Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts.  Aand should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).

This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

 

 

Subscribe on iTunes

Show Notes for Episode #6 – Anomie

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.
Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance. A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.
Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.
And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.

Do you ever become so discouraged at the state of the world – or, maybe your workplace – that you think the stage is set for a breakdown of society? Well, you can point that out in an elegant way with this terrific word: anomie.

It’s spelled a-n-o-m-i-e, and it means unrest or instability brought on by a breakdown of ethics, standards, and values.

Here’s how to use it: “The anomie and anger of the German people after World War I gave rise to the fascist power-grab.”

“Anomie” comes from a Greek word meaning “lawlessness,” but it doesn’t necessarily mean a complete disintegration of norms. It’s an expressive and precise word because it conveys the idea of festering alienation that could gradually lead to social decay; you can also use it to apply to uncertainty, or purposelessness, stemming from a lack of ideals, morals, or, in some usages of the word, lack of leadership or control.

Anomie works for you because it usually casts a strong implication that the unrest is because of a lack of ethics, or a shaky moral underpinning – but doesn’t come right out and accuse anyone.
It even sounds a little disturbing…even if your listener doesn’t know the word, a state of anomie can’t really be anything good.

If you don’t want to communicate the ethical aspect of the breakdown, you’re generally better off with something like aimlessness or listlessness.

Don’t mix it up with ennui, spelled e-n-n-u-i, which means a sense of dissatisfaction or listlessness because of having no meaningful purpose.

Anomie, ennui, listlessness – I’ll now stop before I induce one or all three.

Thanks for listening. As always, a review and a link are always appreciated. Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts. And should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).
This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

Subscribe on iTunes

Show Notes for Episode #5 – Disquisition

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.

Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance.  A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.

Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.

And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.

How often have you sat listening to someone giving a tedious and overly detailed explanation and wanted to just slit your wrists?  Or maybe slit the speaker’s wrists if you could get away with it?

There’s a word that perfectly describes an endless, monotonous explanation — and it slyly allows you to imply long-windedness without openly saying it.

It’s disquisition, [spell]  and it means an elaborate and highly detailed analysis of a subject.

Here’s how to use it: “The senator responded to the question of how much money would be spent with a half-hour disquisition on the budgetary process.”

About the Word: “Dis” is Latin for “apart” (like “disassemble) and “quaerere” means “seek,” – and it’s the root of the English word “inquire.”

So the word “disquisition” evolved from the idea of seeking and presenting all the separate parts of an issue – making it easy to remember when you realize it means “disassembling a question.”

Often – and probably most of the time —  the word is used in a negative way to mean an overly intricate explanation. It even sounds like a put-down if you say it with disdain: disquisition. Thus, you can employ it to express your exasperation with someone  — something like, “perhaps this isn’t the best time for a disquisition of your political views” — without being openly dismissive.

The real power of this word is that it’s not, strictly speaking an insult.  If you modify it in a positive manner, such as “eloquent disquisition,” it takes on a very nice connotation.  But generally, if  you use it to express your frustration most people will get the idea.

If you want to leave out some of the negative implication of your description of a detailed investigation, try another word from the same root, “inquiry.”  But if you want to characterize that investigation as hostile or unfair, use “inquisition.”

And that is my explication of this useful word…meaning that in my mind, at least, I made something for clear.   I will stop before this turns into a disquisition.

Thanks for listening.  As always, a review and a link are always appreciated.  Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts.  Aand should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).

This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

Subscribe on iTunes

Show notes for Episode #4 – Implacable:

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.

Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance. A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.

Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.

And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.

Do you butt heads with someone who just can’t be pleased or appeased – no matter how hard you try? It’s unfortunate we have to deal with people like that but lucky that we have a word for them.

It’s implacable [spell], and it describes someone who simply cannot be appeased, whose views or actions cannot be changed.

It’s used like this: “We have tried every reasonable option to make the owners of the property happy with our plans, but they remain implacable.”

Implacable comes from the Latin word placare, which means “to calm” — pretty much what the word “placate” means in English. Another form of placare spawned the word “placid,” meaning peaceful, as well as “placebo,” which of course means a pill that makes you happy and clam even though it doesn’t have any real medicinal value.

“Implacable” is a muscular word that expresses the notion that nothing will make the other party happy. It’s an uncannily perfect (and properly sophisticated) way of characterizing an opponent as a whiny toddler who just can’t be pleased. Even people who might not be able to summon a precise definition of “implacable” generally realize that it carries negative baggage, so use the word when you want to gain an upper hand over someone you truly believe unreasonable.

An alternative word, “Relentless,” for example, can be construed to be admiration, so don’t use that word if you don’t mean in that way, and do want to invoke the toddler image. “Implacable” adds that appropriate spoiled-child disdain to your assessment, as does “inexorable,” a word we’ll look at in a future podcast. Inexorable implies unable to be persuaded. Inexorable also adds on the implication that your foe just simply won’t listen to real adult logic.

So remember that when someone just can’t be calmed, or placated, or made placid, you are dealing with an implacable foe — but now have the ammunition to put that person in his or her place. Be implacable when doing so.

Thanks for listening. As always, a review and a link are always appreciated. Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts. Aand should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).
This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

Subscribe on iTunes

Show notes for this episode:

Carl Hausman here, with The Arsenal of the Articulate – a weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.
Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance. A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.
Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.
And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.

We all have notions that certain situations or ideas are hidden threats…they may not pose a danger now, but will if left unchecked. There’s an uncannily precise word for this: “Insidious.” [SPELL].
Insidious describes something that moves in a gradual way but is ultimately very damaging. Sometimes the meaning is broadened to refer to a situation that is stealthily intended to entrap, such as a carefully planned and slow-moving plot.

You use it like this: “Gradual increases in our property tax each and every year are among the most insidious threats to the future of the business because over a ten-year period those hikes really add up – and, once the situation is out of control, the sales price of our property will be devastated.”

“Insidious” works for you because, unlike anemic words and phrases with similar meanings, “insidious” allows you to cast the situation as a real threat. The word even sounds scary. A little verbal fear-mongering puts you in a powerful position to garner support for your view or plan.

If you want to more strongly condemn the motives of someone behaving in a stealthy manner, try a synonym such as “treacherous.” Do not mix this word up with “invidious” – which is a wonderful word which will be featured in a future podcast but means something completely different, something that is likely to cause envy or resentment.

The origin of “insidious” helps you remember the meaning. : It’s from the Latin word for sit, which is either “sid” or “sed” depending on the way it is used in a Latin sentence. Sid/sed unlocks many English meanings, including “sedentary” (sitting a lot), “sedative” (a drug that makes you sit or lie down), and “assiduous,” meaning, literally, being so thorough that you “sit down with your work.” “Insidious” came from the practice of Roman soldiers who would sit low to the ground and wait in hiding to ambush opposing troops.

Now that you know the story, try to forget the word. I challenge you. My system will insidiously hard-wire this and other words into your brain.
Thanks for listening. As always, a review and a link are always appreciated. Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts. And should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).
This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.

 

Welcome to my weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.

Show notes for this episode:

Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance.  A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.

Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.  

And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.

What’s the perfect word to describe someone or something that wants to cause an argument just to feed on the resulting dispute? The word is “eristic,” [SPELL].  It means intended to cause controversy just for the sake of causing controversy.  It’s usually an adjective, but sometimes it’s used as a noun to refer to someone who displays that type of behavior.

You can employ this word to put opponents in their place and sound graceful in the process.  When you use “eristic,” you take the verbal high road.  

For example:  “Our competitor for this contact addressed none of the real substance of the issue, preferring to launch eristic attacks on our perfectly reasonable objections to the terms.”

Using “eristic” subtly and efficiently impugns both the motives and substance of someone’s remarks.  It allows you, in a sly and cultured way, to counter an argument by objecting, in what would seem to be a perfectly reasonable manner, to the tone of a remark – but in the process also implying flaws in its logic and factuality and insinuating that the motives of the messenger make the message untrustworthy.

If you are looking for a word that more strongly implies that someone is being aggressive, rather than disputatious, try “belligerent.” “Belligerent” comes from the Latin word for war and it carries the subtext of being threatening.  But should you want to slant the meaning toward someone showing reflexive and continual defiance, try “truculent.”

Eris was the beautiful but disagreeable Greek goddess of chaos, strife, and contention; her parents owned a restaurant near me and I briefly dated her in my youth.  Her namesake word often implies not only creating disputes, but also invoking illogical or irrelevant arguments in the process.   (As a side-note, you may remember that Romans appropriated Greek gods into their belief system but changed their names.  Eris became the Roman goddess Discordia, the root of our present-day word “discord.”)

So…remember the image of the Greek goddess standing in the midst of chaos and contention that she caused – and she enjoyed – and you’ll be able to use the word with devastating effect.

Thanks for listening.  As always, a review and a link are always appreciated.  Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts.  Aand should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).

This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate. 

 

 

Welcome to my weekly podcast examining explosively eloquent power words that will give you the upper hand in debate, discussion, persuasion, and in life.

Show Notes for this episode:

Each week we look at a word that carries real power…a specific and impactful meaning that communicates a point with elegance.  A word that’s unique, poetic, mellifluous, and impeccably exact.

Along the way, we look at the story behind the word – background that’s not only interesting but useful in helping you remember it so you can deploy it at will.  

And, we provide a few alternatives with different shades of meaning to help choose your weapon with precision – and, sound good in the process.

Question: What do you call someone or something that is just irritating or repellent?

The word is rebarbative.  [SPELL] It means irritating, repellent, and aggravating either because of abrasive behavior, or – and this is why the word is so much fun – because of an objectionable appearance.

You can slyly slice an opponent in a couple different ways with this word weapon.

For example:  “Your pet argument, sir, is just a rambling and rebarbative soliloquy, like a drunk trying to lure someone into a fight.”

Or, “the rebarbative nature of the appearance of the strip malls on this route will inspire me to lie in front of the construction equipment if the council approves plans for another one.”

The origin of rebarbative is fascinating.  It originally meant standing “beard to beard” in a confrontation, and it comes from the Latin word for “beard,” from which we derive “barber.”  Now, the exact details of how the word came into use are lost in antiquity, but here’s one possibility I hope is true, because I really like the story.  French fishermen were known to be particularly obnoxious and argumentative and had a habit of wearing beards and thrusting their chins out when they argued with each other.  You can almost smell the snails on their breath. 

But in any event, the concept of standing “beard to beard” will give you general idea.  In fact, a very obscure use of the word “beard” is as a verb – meaning to challenge someone.

Rebarbative works for you by implying that something is just objectionable either in action or appearance…therefore, if that’s what you are trying to say, it’s a lot stronger than something like “confrontational.”  If you want to leave the repellent aspect of the word out of your argument, and want to simply imply that someone is being disagreeable for the sake of being disagreeable, a better choice is “eristic,” which we’ll look at more closely in a future episode of this podcast.  But if you want to want to shade your meaning toward something that is not only annoying but worrisome, try the word “vexatious,” which implies an action that is not only meant to cause annoyance also to inflict nettlesome emotional distress.

Remember, when you think of rebarbative, think of an annoying fisherman with bad breath yelling at you as he sticks his beard in your face, and you’ll be right on target.

Thanks for listening.  As always, a review and a link are always appreciated.  Check out my website, carlhausman.com, that’s carlhausman [spell] dot com. I’ll post show notes there in case you want to check spellings or see related blog posts.  Aand should you be so inclined, go over to Amazon and take a look at my latest book, Write Like a Pro: Ten Techniques for Getting Your Point Across at Work (and in Life).

This is Carl Hausman with the Arsenal of the Articulate.