Friday, May 12, 2017

An argument about ‘weak language’ that is weak tea


Chapter 4 of Bill Hoogterp's 2014 book Your Perfect Presentation is titled Weak Language: Cut It Down. The section on page 51 titled The Taste of Weak Language says:
"Let's try a little experiment. Fill a glass or cup one-fourth full with a beverage you like – coffee, soda, something flavorful. Now add plain water to the same glass until it is three-fourths full.

How appetizing does it look now?

In theory, it shouldn't be a problem. Water has no taste, so it should have no effect. The same should be true for all the ums, basicallys, and other weak language. They don't mean anything, so what's the harm?

Take a sip of the watered-down drink. How did it taste?

That is what it tastes like to other people's brains when we use weak language. It dilutes and weakens the power of your message."

But that argument is ridiculous, since our filler words are NOT EVER twice what our message is. An article titled Cutting Out Filler Words by William H. Stevenson, III in the February 2011 issue of Toastmaster Magazine discussed the extreme example of Caroline Kennedy who used 27 ‘ums’ and 38 ‘you knows’ (a total of 65 fillers) in a five-minute talk. Let’s assume conservatively she spoke at 80 words per minute for a total of 400 words. Her filler words then would be just 16% of the total, not the 67% of the total in Bill’s ludicrous example. 

Mr. Hoogterp’s 'theory' is a ridiculous straw man! Would anyone really believe that nonsense? Ask the high-school girls in any domestic science (formerly home economics) class. When I was a small child in Knoxville I learned the recipe for iced tea from my mother. If it will be chilled in the refrigerator, then for each cup of hot water you put into the pot you add one tea bag and a teaspoon of sugar (or for Southern sweet tea a tablespoon). To make three cups you need three tea bags, not just one.

Another article by Jessica Bennett titled What a Speech Coach Told Me About “Speaking Like A Woman” (And Why It’s BS) on March 8, 2017 at Fast Company also took on Mr. Hoogterp.

The image of an iced tea glass came from the National Cancer Institute, and the image of a 1935 cooking class came from the Library of Congress.  

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