Friday, August 13, 2010




1 : to give advice to : counsel
2 : inform, notify
3 : consult, confer

When doing a search for the word ADVISE on youtube, I came across Rebecca, an ESL educator. The video I found was a five-minute instructional piece regarding the important difference between the words advice and ADVISE. Other than a minor foul-up in her dry erase presentation (in her defense, she fixed the mistake gracefully, although I ADVISE her to spellcheck before recording), the video was very effective.

RebeccaESL has a wide selection of educational videos on youtube. My favorite is one titled, "Business English - Complaining and Disagreeing Politely and Effectively." In this video, Rebecca instructs watchers to replace negative adjectives with positive adjectives in order to be more diplomatic. For example, saying "not clean" instead of "dirty," or saying "I don't think that idea is very smart," instead of, "I think your idea is totally stupid,"suggesting the latter phrase would create "bad vibes." She's right. I only wish American children would watch this video, too. Or adults.

Another video explains the polite ways of saying "yes" or "no." These are really lessons in etiquette. And I'm thinking about how much etiquette weighs in language. At Whole Foods, we're instructed to respond with phrases like "my pleasure" when customers (aka "guests") request something. I feel uncomfortable saying "my pleasure" because I think it sounds sexual. Instead, I say things like, "sure thing," "of course," or "absolutely"—all still fairly polite. I also fancy altering my response to match the way a customer asks. Some examples:

If someone says: "I was hoping I could get a brownie..."
I respond with: "Well, hope no more. The brownie is yours."

"I was just wondering if I could get one of those cookies."
"Well, the answer is yes."

"Russian tea cake."
"Russian tea cake, it is."

"Can I get a cupcake?"
"I suppose I can make that happen."

"I'm thinking about the chocolate crinkle."
"I'm thinking about getting it for you."

If I had said "my pleasure" every time my job and their lives would be really dull. Wit is more important than etiquette.

I wonder if Rebecca teaches wit.

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