Published: 19th September 2020
Do uncommon words and effective communicators get along? Let's find out
Did you come across the tweet Congress MP and author Shashi Tharoor addressed to popular novelist Chetan Bhagat? The exchange that ensued was one that is going to be memorable for a long time to come
Recently, Congress MP and author Shashi Tharoor and popular novelist Chetan Bhagat exchanged tweets that went viral. It all started when Shashi Tharoor praised Chetan Bhagat for his recent column in a national daily. “Superb piece by @chetan_bhagat on all that ails our country & what we should do about it. Chetan’s great virtue is the simplicity and directness of his writing. His message is clear & I hope his fans in the government act on it.” Tharoor used simple and common words in the tweet. Bhagat, whose political ideology does not match Tharoor’s, was surprised to receive the tweet from the politician.
Bhagat, in his reply, asked Tharoor to use big words to praise him. Tharoor’s swift reply using high-sounding incomprehensible words amused Twitterati. He tweeted: “Sure, @chetan_bhagat! It’s clear you are not sesquipedalian nor given to rodomontade. Your ideas are unembellished with tortuous convolutions & expressed without ostentation. I appreciate the limpid perspicacity of today’s column.” At the time of writing this column the tweet had been liked, retweeted, quoted and commented by 73.5k, 10.4k, 5.6k, and 8.6k members of the Twitterati. Great!
What do the uncommon words mean? We need to refer to a dictionary or Tharoorosaurus, a new book written by Shashi Tharoor in the style of a thesaurus, to know the meanings of the words. sesquipedalian: characterised by the use of long words, rodomontade: boastful behaviour, unembellished: lacking ornamentation or adornment, tortuous: lengthy and complex, convolution: complication, ostentation: showy display of something, limpid: clear and simple in style, perspicacity: shrewdness.
Shashi Tharoor has excellent command of English and is a very powerful communicator. He does not always use such bombastic words. This is revealed in his first tweet to Chetan Bhagat and his appreciation for a simple and clear style. As Tharoor is also known for his fondness for bombastic and uncommon words, some people who have not read his writings think that he writes in complex manner. It is not true.
Some readers have sought my comment on the words used by Tharoor in the tweet. This makes me raise these two questions. What are the characteristics of an effective communicator? Is it necessary to use high-sounding and uncommon words in our day-to-day communication? Effective communicators present their ideas and messages effectively to the reader or listener. They communicate and do not complicate. They use words and phrases that can be easily understood by the audience. They make appropriate word choices and mostly use everyday words and phrases and avoid using uncommon words. One reason why Chetan Bhagat is so popular is that he writes in an easy-to-understand language. Even those who are not proficient in English can understand his novels. In fact, the Congress MP praised Bhagat for writing in a simple style.
Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people — WB Yeats