Saturday, August 22, 2015

Say what?

The use or misuse of idioms can really leave an audience confused and dumbfounded. Every language makes use of "idioms" or sayings that are easy to remember and can convey a palliative message. As the native speaker matures and emerges, skilled at communicating complicated ideas through the artful use of words and familiar phrases, their influence potential increases exponentially. However, literate and educated in pop-culture can also be a disadvantage. How so? Remember the last time you delivered a quote that you believed everyone should know and it went over like a "lead balloon." You were so proud of yourself for using a simile and an idiom, you didn't even notice that your audience was stuck somewhere between the land of "huh?" and "what did she just say?"

In our attempt to "wow" we forget that the understanding and knowledge of our chosen language may not be fully appreciated or understood by the majority of our audience. That's why it's important, as Dr. Frannie Stein says, to "know your audience." Using quotes from, what you think is a movie every human being has seen, at a critical moment in your speech could result in an epic fail.
"Speaking to a group of 55+ aged Toastmasters, I made the assumption that everyone was familiar with the award winning movie "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre." This 1948 movie is rated 30, on the AFI's list of Top 100 Movies of ALL TIME! The movie was directed by John Huston and starred Humphrey Bogart and John's father, the legendary Broadway actor Walther Huston (who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor). However, when I said I was so excited that "I did the Walter Huston dance" the expressions on the faces of my ENTIRE audience told me they thought I was speaking some extraterrestrial language. I died a dramatic death by idiom."
 In some upcoming posts I am going to share with you familiar idioms that you have most likely heard, understood and used, that could leave members of your audience scratching their head in confusion. Being understood and remembered for giving a life changing speech is the dream of every Toastmaster. Are you ready to "put the pedal to the metal" and "knock this out of the ballpark"?