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What’s in a Word?

Improving our word repertoire gives flavour to speeches and presentations.  Whilst we don’t want to use jargon or words that are incomprehensible, elaborating our vocabulary can improve the listener’s enjoyment and therefore their attention.

The way we learn new words is to recognise and interpret those we have not come across before.  We then need to include them in our active vocabulary.  I recently offered the following word for usage at a Toastmasters meeting.

Cantankerous – It means bad tempered, irritable, crabby, argumentative, difficult, tetchy, complaining, unreasonable, or indeed belligerent.


In Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, Mr Scrooge was without doubt the most cantankerous of characters until, that is, he was visited by three equally cantankerous ghosts.

Substituting a word can also be extremely useful when writing or speaking – as to repeat the same word throughout your prose is not only dull but obviously lazy, unless of course you use it to make a point.

This is not about increasing your word power to pad out your conversation with long convoluted words.  No one likes a show off after all.  This can be as simple as swapping common verbs like to go or to be with a more descriptive one.  The difference between she went to the park and she skipped to the park offers the listener a lot of detail both visually and emotionally.

Have a listen to The Christians “What’s in a word?”

How much clearer might your communiqué be, if you chose alternative words to convey your meaning?  Have some fun with Thesaurus!

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