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INTERESTING WORDSby@rosebuhlig

INTERESTING WORDS

by Rose BuhligOctober 21st, 2023
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Business English is the expression of our commercial life in English. It is not synonymous with letter writing. To be sure, business letters are important, but they form only a part of one of the two large divisions into which the subject naturally falls. First, there is oral expression, important because so many of our business transactions are conducted personally. Thousands of salesmen daily move from place to place over the entire country, earning their salaries by talking convincingly of the goods that they have to sell. A still greater number of clerks, salesmen, managers, and officials orally transact business in our shops, stores, offices, and banks. Complaints are adjusted; difficulties are disentangled; and affairs of magnitude are consummated in personal interviews, the matter under discussion often being thought too important to be entrusted to correspondence. In every business oral English is essential. Second, there is written expression. This takes account of the writing of advertisements, circulars, booklets, and prospectuses, as well as of letters. And in the preparation of these oral English is fundamental. It precedes and practically includes the written expression. For example, we say colloquially that a good advertisement "talks." We mean that the writer has so fully realized the buyer's point of view that the words of the advertisement seem to speak directly to the reader, arousing his interest or perhaps answering his objection. Oral English is fundamental, too, in the writing of letters, for most letters are dictated and not written. The correspondent dictates them to his stenographer or to a recording machine in the same tone, probably, that he would use if the customer were sitting before him.
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Business English: A Practice Book by Rose Buhlig is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. INTERESTING WORDS

INTERESTING WORDS

Business English is the expression of our commercial life in English. It is not synonymous with letter writing. To be sure, business letters are important, but they form only a part of one of the two large divisions into which the subject naturally falls.


First, there is oral expression, important because so many of our business transactions are conducted personally. Thousands of salesmen daily move from place to place over the entire country, earning their salaries by talking convincingly of the goods that they have to sell. A still greater number of clerks, salesmen, managers, and officials orally transact business in our shops, stores, offices, and banks. Complaints are adjusted; difficulties are disentangled; and affairs of magnitude are consummated in personal interviews, the matter under discussion often being thought too important to be entrusted to correspondence. In every business oral English is essential.


Second, there is written expression. This takes account of the writing of advertisements, circulars, booklets, and prospectuses, as well as of letters. And in the preparation of these oral English is fundamental. It precedes and practically includes the written expression. For example, we say colloquially that a good advertisement "talks." We mean that the writer has so fully realized the buyer's point of view that the words of the advertisement seem to speak directly to the reader, arousing his interest or perhaps answering his objection. Oral English is fundamental, too, in the writing of letters, for most letters are dictated and not written. The correspondent dictates them to his stenographer or to a recording machine in the same tone, probably, that he would use if the customer were sitting before him.


But in taking this point of view, we should not minimize the importance of written business English. In a way, it is more difficult to write well than it is to talk well. In talking we are not troubled with the problems of correct spelling, proper punctuation, and good paragraphing. We may even repeat somewhat, if only we are persuasive. But in writing we are confronted with the necessity of putting the best thoughts into the clearest, most concise language, at the same time obeying all the rules of spelling, punctuation, and grammar. The business man must be sure of these details in order to know that his letters and advertising matter are correct. The stenographer, especially, must be thoroughly familiar with them, so that she may correctly transcribe what has been dictated.


Business English is much the same as any other English. It consists in expression by means of words, sentences, and paragraphs. Moreover, they are much the same kind of words, sentences, and paragraphs that appear in any book that is written in what is commonly called the literary style. In a business letter the words are largely those of every day use, and but few are technical. It is the manner in which the words are put together, the idea back of the sentence, that makes the only difference.


We shall begin the study of business English with a study of words, for in all expression, whether oral or written, a knowledge of words, of their meaning and suggestive power, is fundamental. On the choice of words depends not only the correctness but also the effectiveness of expression—the courtesy of a letter, the appeal of an advertisement, the persuasiveness of a salesman's talk. A mastery of words cannot be gained at once. Every time one speaks, he must consider what words will best convey his idea. In this chapter only the barest beginning of such study can be made. The exercises show the value of the subject.


The study of words is interesting because words themselves are interesting. Sometimes the interest consists in the story of the derivation. As an example, consider the word italic. Many words in this book are written in italic to draw attention to them. Literally the word means "relating to Italy or its people." It is now applied to a kind of type in which the letters slope toward the right. The type was called italic because it was dedicated to the states of Italy by the inventor, Manutius, about the year 1500. An unabridged dictionary will tell all about the word.


The word salary tells a curious story. It is derived from a Latin word, salarium, meaning "salt money." It was the name of the money that was given to the Roman soldiers for salt, which was a part of their pay. Finally, instead of signifying only the salt money, it came to mean the total pay.


Practically all of this information a good dictionary gives. In other words, a dictionary is a story book containing not one, but hundreds of thousands of stories. Whenever possible it tells what language a word came from, how it got its different meanings, and how those meanings have changed in the course of time. For it is natural that words should change just as styles change, names of ancient things being lost and names for new things being made. As the objects themselves have gone out of use, their names have also gone. When a word has gone entirely out of use, it is marked obsolete in the dictionary. On the other hand, new inventions must be named. Thus new words are constantly being added to the language and the dictionary because they are needed.


There is a large class of words that we shall not have time to consider. They are called technical. Every profession, business, or trade has its distinctive words. The technical words that a printer would use are entirely different from those which a dentist, a bookkeeper, or a lawyer would use. You will learn the technical terms of your business most thoroughly after you enter it and see the use for such terms.


None of the words, therefore, that you will be asked to search out in the dictionary are, strictly speaking, technical. It is evident that it will do you no good to search out the words in the dictionary, unless you learn them—unless you use them correctly in speaking and writing. There is pleasure in thus employing new material, as everybody knows. Use your eyes and ears. When you hear a new word, or read one, focus the mind upon it for a moment until you can retain a mental picture of its spelling and of its pronunciation. Then as soon as possible look it up in the dictionary to fix its spelling, pronunciation, and definition. Do this regularly, and you will have reason to be proud of your vocabulary.


An excellent way to increase the number of words that you know is to read the right kind of books. The careful study of the words used in the speeches and addresses of noted men is good practice. The conditions that called forth the speech were probably important, and the speech itself interesting, or it would not be preserved. When a man has an interesting or important message to give, he usually gives it in clear, exact, simple language. Therefore the vocabulary that he uses is worth copying. As for stories, there is a kind that furnishes a wealth of material that modern authors are constantly using or referring to, and this is found in stories of the Bible, stories of Greek and Northern gods and goddesses, stories of the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Æneid, stories of chivalry—all old stories. Every one should know them well, because they are the basis of many allusions in which a single word oftentimes suggests a whole story. The meaning of the word herculean, for instance, is missed if you do not know the story of Hercules and know that he was famous for his strength.


Exercise 1

Atlas is an interesting word. Originally it was the name of a Greek god, who carried the world on his shoulders. Then it is supposed that in the sixteenth century the famous geographer Mercator prefixed his collection of maps with the picture of Atlas supporting the world. Thus a collection of maps in a volume came to be called an atlas. Consult an unabridged dictionary for the origin of each of the following:


rival

fortune

cereal

boycott

dollar

finance

china

derrick

bankrupt

milliner

java

mercury

cash

pullman

cashmere

colossal

mint

grocer

macadam

turbine


Exercise 2

The days of the week and the months of the year are interesting in their derivation. Monday, for example, represents the day sacred to the Moon as a deity. Explain the origin of each of the following:


Sunday

Saturday

May

October

Tuesday

January

June

November

Wednesday

February

July

December

Thursday

March

August


Friday

April

September



Exercise 3

Look up the derivation of the following:

cancel

bead

ambition

hospital

pecuniary

paper

influence

pavilion

cheat

book

virtue

mackintosh

speculation

bayonet

peevish

chapel

phaëton

tawdry

disaster

omnibus


Exercise 4

Explain the origin of each of the following:

curfew

tulip

turquoise

good-bye

pompadour

aster

amethyst

dismal

hyacinth

dunce

tantalize

titanic

dandelion

humor

umbrella

volcano

dahlia

villain

sandwich

tangle

begonia

echo

lunatic

babble


Exercise 5

Name the image that each of the following suggests to you:

howl

sputter

rasping

munch

skim

prance

clatter

trickle

squeal

click

wheeze

shuffle

moan

thud

trudge

bulge

squeak

patter

chuckle

gobble

squawk

spatter

toddling

swish


Exercise 6

Bring to class a list of words which, because they are the names of modern inventions, have come into the language in modern time.


Exercise 7

How many words can you name which might be called the technical terms of school life, words which always carry with them a suggestion of the school room? Bring in a list of twenty such words.


Exercise 8

How many words can you name which are used only in the business world? Bring in a list of twenty such words.


Exercise 9

How many words can you name which apply particularly to money and the payment or non-payment of money? Bring in a list of twenty or more such words.


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This book is part of the public domain. Rose Buhlig (2011). Business English: A Practice Book. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/38046/pg38046-images.html


This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org, located at https://www.gutenberg.org/policy/license.html.