Things We Said Today
Toastmasters in our club are infatuated with the word “thing”. In one recent meeting alone, we counted 48 uses of the word “thing”. But here’s the thing:
“Thing” is a word that is so vague that we have no idea what you are talking about!
I admit it. I am addicted to the word “thing”. When evaluating a very advanced speaker a few weeks ago, I proclaimed that I was going to talk about three “things” that I liked about his speech, and three “things” that could be improved. Oh, and one more thing to add: he could have done less of that thing he did with his hands.
My evaluation and elocution could have benefited from some wordsmithing…or a thesaurus.
I am not alone, though.
There are films, songs and characters named “Thing”. That’s nice…but there has to be a more descriptive word!
"That Thing You Do”
“Things We Said Today”
"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”
“Do the Right Thing”
“Crazy Little Thing Called Love”
"Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing”
“The Swamp Thing”
"The Next Best Thing”
And my personal favorite: "Frank Sinatra: Francis Albert Sinatra Does His Thing".
What, exactly, is the “thing” that Sinatra does?
To get more technical, how does the Merriam-Webster dictionary define “thing”?
Well, it doesn’t quite define it so much as ramble on indeterminately about it. The first definition is: "an object or entity not precisely designated or capable of being designated”. Great! Then there are nine other complete definitions.
What is the solution to this malaise of language?
As long-time member Alexander Denk DTM is fond of saying, we’re gotten lazy with language.
But there is a solution to this non-descriptive mumbo-jumbo: Be descriptive. Be specific. Be creative.
When delivering an evaluation, a table topic or even a speech, how about substituting the following words or phrases for “thing”?
Points, points of interest, points of differentiation, pieces of feedback, occurrences, learnings, characteristics, concerns, areas of improvement, actions that can be taken, circumstances, outcomes to note, qualities, traits, details, attributes to distinguish.
One attribute of the Toastmasters training is learning to use great words. Each week, a member of the club chooses a word to be used as often as possible by the other members. It is an opportunity to expand our vocabulary in spoken situations, without the aid of online tools, a thesaurus or time to carefully edit our words.
With the richness of the English language, let’s have the intention of replacing the tired and listless “thing” with better descriptors. Here’s the thing: Your message will resonate more powerfully with your audience.