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" Should F.G. play safe and turn "Big Bertha" into "The Large Cornbread"? "
Dear Goddess Of Public Speaking...
" I make and sell wholesome breads and cakes and I like to give them inventive, memorable names. I have a large cornbread called "Big Bertha" and a pastry called "Macadamia Sweetie". Intriguingly, customers (men and women) will not use these names. Instead they point and say "I'll have that one" or "I'll have the large cornbread" or "the Macadamia thing, please".
I also have a pastry called the "Banana Slab" and customers will happily ask for "The Slab". What's going on? Are Australians fearful of certain kinds of language? Is this a case of political correctness or a fear of language intimacy? " F.G., SMALL BUSINESS OWNER
" SUGGESTIVELY SPEAKING "
What intriguing questions you ask. Personally I would love to ask for a "Macadamia Sweetie", but I do feel repelled by the term, "The Slab".
Whilst researching material for this article, I spoke with my local ice cream shop owner, Dale. He told me about a biscuit he and his partner make called the Super Slice, but his customers avoid using the word "super". Dale's theory is that customers want justification of the superlative, "super". He thinks they want to know what is so super about the "Super Slice" before they will deign to call it that. The biscuit is a best seller, but still, it's title is not deemed worthy. Perhaps, he wonders, he should just call it "Best Seller Biscuit". This begs the question, do customers prefer the obvious and literal, rather than having to use effort and imagination?
It seems to me that when language gets oversimplified, "dumbed down", made safe and inoffensive, we lose a lot of creative colour, diversity and fun. It's like supplying hemp jackets in every shade of grey. Well you can have grey, grey or even grey and the good thing is you'll fit in with everyone else and not risk standing out.
This of course is a perfect parallel with the fear of public speaking. When you stand up and out, you risk being seeing as different and may feel the need to justify yourself in front of others. Are you worthy of being called a "Super Slice" in your own right? Or is it the fear of being perceived as "super", the problem? Perhaps the root of all this language and labelling stuff is based on fear about what others think.
F.G., I have come up with a few insights about your weighty query:
Sometimes it does benefit you to state the obvious and sacrifice creativity - like when the house is burning down, you might want to say, "just leave the bloomin' biscuits and get out now" rather than, 'don't forget the Super Slice, Macadamia Sweetie and Big Bertha."
Understanding your clients' preferred language is significant when it comes to speaking about your services. Imagine giving a short talk about your biscuits and the audience switching off because they didn't like or understand the names of your products. And cultural sensitivity needs to be considered - words can have different meanings in different contexts.
Political correctness leads ultimately to blandness, saving face on the surface and resulting in the loss of individual authenticity. How then do you distinguish yourself from others and stand out from the crowd, especially when you are competition?
If we are frightened of everyday language and withdraw certain words from our vocabulary, are we self editing our way out of freedom of expression?
And how do we balance verbal creativity with respect and consideration for others?
This is such a delightfully complex topic, I am going to ask you, Cool, Calm & Connected Subscriber. What do you think? Should F.G. play safe and turn "Big Bertha" into "The Large Cornbread"? Email me your thoughts now.
Rate between 1 and 10 how cool, calm and connected you feel:
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