411 Focus

Just between the two of us ... sloppy speech is as yucky as funky clothes!

Contributed By:Dorothy Nevils maslivend@sbcglobal.net

Speak now

“Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town crier spoke my lines…”

Ahh… Hamlet tells it! You just can’t beat the sound of clear, distinct words unspoiled by meaningless mutter, sounds that match the meaning, and say no more or no less than the words themselves. It's like that clean, fresh smell of billowing sheets, fresh off the line when the country sun had bleached them, that made little kids jump into their soft welcome as soon as they were clothespin free. If you grew up in a place like I did, you remember the pull of sun-warmed, white cotton sheets to a kid… when your mama wasn’t looking!

Now, switch it around. If the basket were full of musty tee shirts and week-old underwear, would you take the leap? Would the smell of socks scrunched down in sweaty gym shoes every night for five days call your name? I didn’t think so. Just between the two of us (and anybody else listening), sloppy speech is as yucky as funky clothes!

Question: Do you know what your mouth is doing when you speak – or do you just kind of let it “do its own thing”? Are you “speech lazy”? Do you just sort of open your mouth and let the words just flop around like a soggy piece of bread that’s shared space with mashed potatoes and greens overnight? Is your tongue allowed to just lie there at the bottom of your mouth when it should be up “directing traffic”?

There is a certain “feel” to clean speech: Sounds touch the ear like the chime of the doorbell signaling the arrival of your favorite person in the world, the one whose presence makes your whole being smile… and you can’t get to the door fast enough! That’s the speech that’s within your reach. All it takes is commitment!

There is really nothing magical about speaking well. Most of the time it’s a matter of you’re going to speak better. Once you make that decision, then you begin the work – not hard work, but sincere work. Begin listening – to yourself, and to others. If there is someone who speaks well, start to pay attention to that person. Concentrate on just a few words. Then compare and imitate.

Comment on the person’s speech, and share your desire to sharpen yours, and more than likely, you’ll get an ally. Most people, when you think about it, are willing to share: They’ll direct you to the best mechanic, where to get a haircut, even the best fishing spot.

A few years back, at this point I would’ve suggested that you listen to newscasters, but today you just might “cement” some current bad habits… or pick up some new ones. Today’s announcers aren’t like the old ones.

However, there’s one thing that you trust: Anyone can be a better speaker. You don’t have to go “from 0 to 75 in 10 seconds.” Any progress… is progress. Just make up your mind and get to it. “The longest journey begins with a single step.”

Story Posted:04/05/2018

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