Have you ever chatted with someone who is remarkably well-spoken? Their casual conversation about the weather sounds like a doctoral dissertation. Many things make a person “well-spoken” – a soft tone of voice, a neutral accent, and a sharp vernacular.
I remember when I first started to improve my vocabulary in an attempt to be “well-spoken.” I was in my senior year of university, and I was trying to
be sound better than my classmates. I had a very kind, charming gentleman of a professor who would help me perfect my refined way of speaking. I would say “I’m good, thanks” and he would smile and say “I am well, thank you.”
So, without further ado: 5 Things You’re Saying Incorrectly
Good/Well: I am always surprised at what a small effect this has on a conversation. In today’s culture, one of the first pleasantries exchanged is “how are you?” Your first instinct is to say “good, thanks, you?” or if you’re trying particularly hard you might that, “Fine, thank you.” This is all wrong. You do good. You are well. When someone asks how you are, you respond “I am well, thank you for asking.” You might think that, in today’s culture, this is silly. Everyone says they’re good/gud/gooooood. But the Refined Girl says she is “well.” Try it out – you’ll notice how charming and proper it makes you sound and feel.
Jealous/Envious: Another one that, in today’s society, seems to be ingrained in our brains. This was a recent addition to my vocabulary. We go around all day saying, “great skirt! I’m so jealous of your closet!” or “I’m jealous of the girl’s who can eat carbs and never gain weight.” But that’s not quite right. In these cases, you are envious. Say it out loud: EN-vee-yuss. Envious. I am so envious of Heidi Klum’s body. I am so envious of Natalie Portman’s education. So, when are we “jealous?” Well, here’s a basic definition from Merriam-Webster:
Definition of JEALOUS1a : intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness1b : disposed to suspect rivalry or unfaithfulness2: hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage
3: vigilant in guarding a possession <new colonies were jealousof their new independence — Scott Buchanan>
i.e./e.g.: This is another that might blow your mind. You’re talking to your friend, and here’s what you say:
“I really wanted to prepare a dessert that was quintessentially french, i.e., macarons, chocolate souffle, or creme brulee”
But this is wrong! “i.e.” literally stands for “id est” which translates to “that is.” So your sentence now says “I want to make a dessert, that is macaroons.” Not quite right, is it? You should be using “e.g.,” which in Latin means “exempli gratia.” This translates to “for example.” To say “I want to make a dessert, for example macaroons” is the proper form. Are you confused yet? Here’s a quick code:
i.e. = that is (clarification) “I need to shop for shoes, i.e. my shoes are all worn out.”
e.g. = for example (list) “I need to shop for shoes, e.g. flats for weekends, nude pumps for work.”
When all else fails, skip the Latin. The English “for example” or “as in” works well.
Plethora: If you’re already using “plethora,” you clearly studied for your SATs way back in the day. “Plethora” is defined as “an excess.” Many of my friends say “I wish I had a plethora of shoes.” I know what they’re saying, but they do not. “Plethora” has negative connotations – it is a synonym for glut. So, I have a plethora of extra pudge on my thighs. I have a plethora of Visa bills every month. I have a plethora of dust in my china cabinet. Throw this one into your next conversation – you’ll sound very refined.
Literally: You literally annoy me when you say literally all the time. You literally did not die, because you are literally typing right now. This catchy little phrase needs to go away – along with being “mad cool” and “a baller.” Please stop using literally, unless you are using it literally (hey, see what I did there?). The word is defined as “to the letter, word for word, exactly.” Here are some examples of proper usage:
“I told him to text me tomorrow, and he took that literally. I received a text as 12:01 a.m.”
“We were literally bathing in wine at the Vineyard Spa”
“I literally took him down to Chinatown – we took the 101 and exited at Alameda.”
Here’s some bad examples of usage:
I literally died when I saw her shoes.
I literally hate you right now.
I literally peed my pants from laughter (unless this really happened…)
Bonus – Like, Um, Uh: I can’t even express to you how many brain cells you lose when you say “um, uh, and like she was like so cool like ya know.” Stop. Replace every “um” with a “well” and every “like” with “such as/said/thought/the word you are not saying and instead using this terrible Valley Girl term.” Look what happens:
Before: Um, I was like, “I’m going to come to your house to like bake cookies for you like chocolate chip.” and he was like “uh, I like that idea.”
After: Well, I said “I’m going to come to your house to bake cookies for you, such as chocolate chip.” and he said “I love that idea.”
The difference is remarkable.
We should always be learning, living and improving. One more place we can improve is our speech – our tone, our vocabulary, our grammar and our mannerisms can make us even more refined than we already are.