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The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie and J. Berg Esenwein online

XXVII GROWING A VOCABULARY

page 1 of 4 | table of contents

The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie and J. Berg Esenwein

Boys flying kites haul in their white winged birds; You can't do that way when you're flying words. "Careful with fire," is good advice we know, "Careful with words," is ten times doubly so. Thoughts unexpressed many sometimes fall back dead; But God Himself can't kill them when they're said.

--WILL CARLETON, _The First Settler's Story_.

The term "vocabulary" has a special as well as a general meaning. True, _all_ vocabularies are grounded in the everyday words of the language, out of which grow the special vocabularies, but each such specialized group possesses a number of words of peculiar value for its own objects. These words may be used in other vocabularies also, but the fact that they are suited to a unique order of expression marks them as of special value to a particular craft or calling.

In this respect the public speaker differs not at all from the poet, the novelist, the scientist, the traveler. He must add to his everyday stock, words of value for the public presentation of thought. "A study of the discourses of effective orators discloses the fact that they have a fondness for words signifying power, largeness, speed, action, color, light, and all their opposites. They frequently employ words expressive of the various emotions. Descriptive words, adjectives used in _fresh_ relations with nouns, and apt epithets, are freely employed. Indeed, the nature of public speech permits the use of mildly exaggerated words which, by the time they have reached the hearer's judgment, will leave only a just impression."[32]

_Form the Book-Note Habit_

To possess a word involves three things: To know its special and broader meanings, to know its relation to other words, and to be able to use it. When you see or hear a familiar word used in an unfamiliar sense, jot it down, look it up, and master it. We have in mind a speaker of superior attainments who acquired his vocabulary by noting all new words he heard or read. These he mastered and _put into use_. Soon his vocabulary became large, varied, and exact. Use a new word accurately five times and it is yours. Professor Albert E. Hancock says: "An author's vocabulary is of two kinds, latent and dynamic: latent--those words he understands; dynamic--those he can readily use. Every intelligent man _knows_ all the words he needs, but he may not have them all ready for active service. The problem of literary diction consists in turning the latent into the dynamic." Your dynamic vocabulary is the one you must especially cultivate.

In his essay on "A College Magazine" in the volume, _Memories and Portraits_, Stevenson shows how he rose from imitation to originality in the use of words. He had particular reference to the formation of his literary style, but words are the raw materials of style, and his excellent example may well be followed judiciously by the public speaker. Words _in their relations_ are vastly more important than words considered singly.

Whenever I read a book or a passage that particularly pleased me, in which a thing was said or an effect rendered with propriety, in which there was either some conspicuous force or some happy distinction in the style, I must sit down at once and set myself to ape that quality. I was unsuccessful, and I knew it; and tried again, and was again unsuccessful, and always unsuccessful; but at least in these vain bouts I got some practice in rhythm, in harmony, in construction and co÷rdination of parts.

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