Scintillate, scintillate, globule vivific, Fain would I fathom thy nature specific.
Loftily poised in the ether capacious, Strongly resembling a gem carbonaceous.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are, Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Neil Marten, a member of the British Parliament, was once giving a group of his
constituents a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament. During the course of the visit,
the group happened to meet Lord Hailsham, then lord chancellor, wearing all the regalia of
his office. Hailsham recognized Marten among the group and cried, "Neil!" Not
daring to question or disobey the "command," the entire band of visitors
promptly fell to their knees!
Today in the Word, July 30, 1993.
The power of a successfully communicated thought, from one human mind to another, is
one of the greatest forces we know. But like the tango, it takes two to communicate. You
can communicate a thought, but your thought may not be understood. In some cases, your
thought may not even reach the proper target. That's why it pays to ask questions to make
certain that people understand what you are saying. The great movie maker, Cecil B.
DeMille would agree.
DeMille was making one of his great epic movies. He had six cameras at various points
to pick up the overall action and five other cameras set up to film plot developments
involving the major characters. The large cast had begun rehearsing their scene at 6 a.m.
They went through it four times and now it was late afternoon. The sun was setting and
there was just enough light to get the shot done. DeMille looked over the panorama, saw
that all was right, and gave the command for action.
One hundred extras charged up the hill; another hundred came storming down the same
hill to do mock battle. In another location Roman centurions lashed and shouted at two
hundred slaves who labored to move a huge stone monument toward its resting place.
Meanwhile the principal characters acted out, in close-up, their reactions to the battle
on the hill. Their words were drowned out by the noise around them, but the dialogue was
to be dubbed in later.
It took fifteen minutes to complete the scene. When it was over, DeMille yelled,
"Cut!" and turned to his assistant, all smiles. "That was great!" he
said. "It was, C.B.," the assistant yelled back. "It was fantastic!
Everything went off perfectly!"
Enormously pleased, DeMille turned to face the head of his camera crew to find out if
all the cameras had picked up what they had been assigned to film. He waved to the camera
crew supervisor. From the top of the hill, the camera supervisor waved back, raised his
megaphone, and called out, "Ready when you are, C.B!"
Bits & Pieces, May 27, 1993, pp. 15-17.
J. Edgar Hoover ran the FBI, no question about it. As a result, almost all of his
subordinates were on the lookout for ways to impress their powerful boss. A young FBI man
was put in charge of the FBI's supply department. In an effort to cut some costs and
impress his boss, he reduced the size of the office memo paper. One of the new memo sheets
soon ended up on Hoover's desk. Hoover took one look at it, determined he didn't like the
size of the margins on the paper, and quickly scribbled on the memo, "Watch the
borders!" The memo was passed on through the office. For the next six weeks, it was
extremely difficult to enter the United States by road from either Mexico or Canada. The
FBI was watching the borders. Why was the FBI watching the borders? They thought they had
received a warning from their chief. But they hadn't. They had transformed an innocuous
comment into a solemn warning.
Steve Farrar, Family Survival in the American
Multnomah Press, p. 75.
Don Hewitt, creator of "60 Minutes," on his special talent as a journalist:
My philosophy is simple. It's what little kids say to their parents: "Tell me a
story." Even the people who wrote the Bible knew that when you deal with issues, you
tell stories. The issue was evil; the story was Noah. I've had producers say, "We've
got to do something on acid rain." I say, "Hold it. Acid rain is not a story.
Acid rain is a topic. We don't do topics. Find me someone who has to deal with the problem
of acid rain. Now you have a story."
Terry Ann Knopf in Boston Globe Magazine,
in Reader's Digest.
Returning home one afternoon with my two daughters, Kimberley, age two, and Kristi, six
months, I pulled into my driveway and stopped to check the mailbox. But when I returned to
the car, I found Kimberley had pushed the locks down on both doors and I had left the key
in the ignition. For an hour I tried to explain to Kimberley how to pull up the door
handle. I was on the verge of tears. My husband wasn't home, and since we live in the
country, there were no neighbors to help. Finally Kimberley stood up and softly tapped on
the window. As I looked down at her, she said, "Mommy, do you want me to roll down
Diane Prestwood (Magee, Miss.).
Cleveland Amory tells this story about Judge John Lowell of Boston. One morning the
judge was at breakfast, his face hidden behind the morning paper. A frightened maid
tiptoed into the room and whispered something to Mrs. Lowell's ear. The lady paled
slightly, then squared her shoulders resolutely and said, "John, the cook has burned
the oatmeal, and there is no more in the house. I am afraid that this morning, for the
first time in seventeen years, you will have to go without your oatmeal." The judge,
without putting down his paper, answered, "It's all right, my dear. Frankly, I never
cared much for it anyhow."
Bits & Pieces, March 4, 1993, p. 23.
Professional golfer Tommy Bolt was playing in Los Angeles and had a caddy with a
reputation of constant chatter. Before they teed off, Bolt told him, "Don't say a
word to me. And if I ask you something, just answer yes or no." During the round,
Bolt found the ball next to a tree, where he had to hit under a branch, over a lake and
onto the green. He got down on his knees and looked through the trees and sized up the
"What do you think?" he asked the caddy. "Five-iron?"
"No, Mr. Bolt," the caddy said.
"What do you mean, not a five-iron?" Bolt snorted.
"Watch this shot."
The caddy rolled his eyes. "No-o-o, Mr. Bolt."
But Bolt hit it and the ball stopped about two feet from the hole. He turned to his
caddy, handed him the five-iron and said, "Now what do you think about that? You can
talk now." "Mr. Bolt," the caddy said, "that wasn't your ball."
Crossroads, Issue No. 7, pp. 15-16.
Communicating with a target market means more than tossing out catchy slogans. A few
companies learned this the hard way when they tried to translate their catchy English
slogans directly into Spanish. Braniff beckoned its passengers to "Fly in
Leather," and Eastern Airlines proclaimed that "We Earn Our Wings Daily."
Both of these now-defunct airlines were terribly mistaken. A Spanish speaker would think
Braniff was asking its riders to "Fly Naked," and a Spanish translation of the
Eastern slogan evoked a final destination in heaven, following death. A few classic
marketing blunders: General Motors discovered too late that "Nova" literally
means "Doesn't go" in Spanish. Coors encouraged its English-speaking customers
to "Turn It Loose," but the phrase in Spanish meant "Suffer from
Diarrhea." Budweiser's "King of Beers" becomes "Queen of Beers"
in Spanish because the Spanish word for beer, "cerveza," has a feminine ending.
And when Frank Perdue said, "It Takes a Tough Man to Make a Tender Chicken,"
Spanish speakers heard "It Takes a Sexually Stimulated Man to Make a Chicken
American Demographics, February, 1992, p. 14.
Well-known Broadway producer Jed Harris once became convinced he was losing his
hearing. He visited a specialist, who pulled out a gold watch and asked "Can you hear
this ticking?" "Of course," Harris replied. The specialist walked to the
door and asked the question again. Harris concentrated and said, "Yes, I can hear it
clearly." Then the doctor walked into the next room and repeated the question a third
time. A third time Harris said he could hear the ticking. "Mr. Harris," the
doctor concluded, "there is nothing wrong with your hearing. You just don't
Today in the Word, June 9, 1992.
I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize
that what you heard is not what I meant.
Back in 1934, when the Cunard line was getting ready to name its greatest ocean liner,
the consensus was that it should be named after Queen Elizabeth I. A high official is
reported to have had an audience with King George V. "We would like to name the ship
after England's greatest queen," he told the king. "Well," said King
George, "I shall have to ask her." The ship was promptly named Queen Mary.
Bits & Pieces, October 17, 1991.
Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness.
Prudence Leith, Caterer and Restauranteur, tells this story in the book, Pardon
Me, But You're Eating My Doily. My favorite catering disaster is the true story of the
couple who went to the Far East on holiday. They wanted, besides their own supper,
something to give their poodle. Pointing to the dog, they made international eating signs.
The waiter understood, picked up the poodle, and set off for the kitchen--only to return
half an hour later with the roasted poodle on a platter.
Prudence Leith, Pardon Me, But You're Eating My
A few years ago gifts to the Prarie Bible Institute of Alberta, Canada, declined from a
certain geographical area. At that time the school's president, Dr. Maxwell, had undergone
two operations for cataracts, one on each eye. When a representative of the school was
visiting in that particular area, a donor asked why Dr. Maxwell was riding around in two
Resources, No. 2.
Sam Goldwyn, the movie producer, used to mangle the English language so badly that his
malaprops and mixed metaphors came to be known as Goldwynisms. Some that have become
classics are... A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's printed on. Every Tom, Dick,
and Harry is named William. Now, gentlemen, listen slowly. For your information, I would
like to ask a question. Include me out. Don't talk to me while I'm interrupting. I may not
always be right, but I'm never wrong.
Bits & Pieces, December, 1989, p. 12-13.
Brinkley's Law: "If there is any way it can be misunderstood--by someone,
somewhere, sometime--it will be misunderstood."
A man returned to his home and played back his telephone answering machine to discover
that his message to callers had not registered beyond his initial "Hello."
Transcribed, the tape of the exchange between machine and one caller ran as follows:
"Hello." "Hello. Hello. . . hello!" (click.)
"Hello." "Hello, hello. . . hello, hello!" (click.)
"Hello." "Hello, hello. . . You see, operator, he says 'Hello,' but he
won't say anything else."
"I'm sorry, sir. We can only connect you with your party. We cannot make him talk
Donny Silverman, quoted by S. McFarland in N.Y. Sunday News Magazine.
Statistics and Stuff
A recent survey by America's most popular teen magazine revealed that only 4.1% of the
teenage girls in America feel they could to go their father to talk about a serious
problem. Even more recently, USA Today published the eye-opening results of a study of
teens under stress. When asked where they turn to for help in a crisis, the most popular
choice was music, the second choice was peers, and the third was TV. Amazing as it may
sound, moms were down the list at number thirty-one, and dads were forty- eighth.
White in Homemade, November 1989.
Married couples have nothing more to say to each other after 8 years, according to a
study. Professor Hans Jurgens asked 5000 German husbands and wives how often they talked
to each other. After 2 years of marriage, most of them managed two or three minutes of
chat over breakfast, more than 20 minutes over the evening meal and a few more minutes in
bed. By the sixth year, that was down to 10 minutes a day. A state of "almost total
speechlessness" was reached by the eighth year of marriage.
Daily Mirror (London).
In a survey by the American Sociological Review, working women said they talk with
their husbands an average of 12 minutes each day.
Focus in the Family, January, 1990, p. 8.
Challenge the kids at dinner tonight to list twenty things that were not yet invented
when you were their age (computers, waterbeds, trash compactors, polyester, space
shuttles). Ask which ones are the most helpful, and if we would be better off without some
of them. To cap the conversation: Thank God together in prayer for all the good things you
enjoy as a family in today's world.
Dads Only, in Homemade, April, 1985.
In a Harvard study of several hundred preschoolers, researchers discovered an
interesting phenomenon. As they taped the children's playground conversation, they
realized that all the sounds coming from little girls' mouths were recognizable words.
However, only 60 percent of the sounds coming from little boys were recognizable. The
other 40 percent were yells and sound effects like "Vrrrooooom!"
"Aaaaagh!" "Toot toot!" This difference persists into adulthood.
Communication experts say that the average woman speaks over 25,000 words a day while the
average man speaks only a little over 10,000. What does this mean in marital terms? . . .
On average a wife will say she needs to spend 45 minutes to an hour each day in meaningful
conversation with her husband. What does her husband sitting next to her say is enough
time for meaningful conversation? Fifteen to twenty minutes--once or twice a week!
Smalley and John Trent, Husbands and Wives.
Some obstacles to upward communication:
1) Many employees fear that expressing their true feelings about the company to their
boss could be dangerous. 2) The fairly wide-spread belief that disagreeing with the boss
will block promotion still holds.
3) There is a wide-spread conviction that management is not interested in employee
4) Some have the feeling that employees are not rewarded for good ideas.
5) There is a lack of supervisory accessibility and responsiveness.
6) The conviction is widespread that higher management doesn't take prompt action on
Bits & Pieces, May 1990, p. 9.
Psychologist Albert Mehrabian said, 77% of the impact of a speaker's message comes
through his words, 38% springs from his name, 55% from facial expressions.
H. Robinson, Biblical Preaching, p. 193, quoting F. Davis,
How to read Body Language.
This story deals with a rather old fashioned lady, who was planning a couple of weeks
vacation in Florida. She also was quite delicate and elegant with her language. She wrote
a letter to a particular campground and asked for reservations. She wanted to make sure
the campground was fully equipped but didn't know quite how to ask about the
"toilet" facilities. She just couldn't bring herself to write the word
"toilet" in her letter. After much deliberation, she finally came up with the
old fashioned term "Bathroom Commode," but when she wrote that down, she still
thought she was being too forward. So she started all over again; rewrote the entire
letter and referred to the Bathroom Commode" simply as the "B.C.". Does the
campground have its own "B.C.?" is what she actually wrote. Well, the campground
owner wasn't old fashioned at all, and then he got the letter, he couldn't figure out what
the lady was talking about. That "B.C." really stumped him.
After worrying about
it for several days, he showed the letter to other campers, but they couldn't figure out
what the lady meant either. The campground owner finally came to the conclusion that the
lady was and must be asking about the location of the local Baptist Church. So he sat down
and wrote the following reply: "Dear Madam: I regret very much the delay in answering
your letter, but I now take pleasure of informing in that the "B.C." is located
nine miles north of the camp site and is capable of seating 250 people at one time. I
admit it is quite a distance away if you are in the habit of going regularly but no doubt
you will be pleased to know that a great number of people take their lunches along, and
make a day of it..... They usually arrive early and stay late. The last time my wife and I
went was six years ago, and it was so crowded we had to stand up the whole time we were
there. It may interest you to know that right now, there is a supper planned to raise
money to buy more seats.....They plan to hold the supper in the middle of the B.C., so
everyone can watch and talk about this great event.....I would like to say it pains me
very much, not to be able to go more regularly, but it is surely not for lack of desire on
my part....As we grow older, it seems to be more and more of an effort, particularly in
cold weather..... If you decide to come down to the campground, perhaps I could go with
you the first time you go...sit with you...and introduce you to all the other folks.....
This is really a very friendly community.....