Sometimes I teach private students how to write better.
One of the rules I teach is, Don’t try to impress anyone with your vocabulary.
Short words are best.
And here’s what the writer George Orwell had to say about this subject:
“Never use a long word where a short one will do.”
But sometimes, you just want to sound smart.
You want to make the other person think, “Wow, that’s a big word. This person must have an IQ larger than the national debt. I should just agree with everything he says.”
And that’s when you bring out your…
This week we had our first Vitamin V translation contest.
The winner: Michaela
Her prize: a ten-dollar word.
And here it is, one of my favorites. (Remember, only use this word in an emergency…)
What does it mean?
It means, third from the end.
Or, if you want to say that something is second from the end, you can say “penultimate.”
Now here’s how you can use it…
Imagine you’re in a meeting with a younger colleague from London.
He’s talking fast and using slang.
That’s not polite, and you suspect he may want your job.
So instead of asking him to slow down or to repeat himself, you say:
“If you will turn to the antepenultimate page of the report, you will find the numbers you’re looking for.”
What’s just happened?
The non-native speaker has used a word not even the native speaker knows!
That will be a day they will never forget.
Just don’t try this with your boss.