No. 925



The famous Scottish essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle once had this to say about language, “Language is called the Garment of Thought: however, it should rather be, Language is the Flesh-Garment, the Body, of Thought.”
It is often said there is one thing we cannot hide except by silence, and that is the use of our language. When we open our mouths and begin to speak, we proclaim to the world where we are on the pyramid of economic and social success. When we have the ability to use our native tongue with grace, ease and distinction, we have a superior advantage over those who are not so capable.
There is one word that is most often used to describe those people who possess superior skills in this most important acquired ability, and that word is articulate. According to the dictionary this word means, “Spoken in distinct syllables or words, to express oneself, able to speak, well formulated, clearly presented; as, an articulate argument.”
Please forgive this personal reference, but one of the best and most meaningful compliments I ever received came several years ago from former Arkansas Gov. Sid McMath. A few weeks before, I had been the banquet speaker for a military function in Little Rock and found myself seated next to Gov. McMath. I felt my talk was well received. One day sometime later, Gov. McMath introduced me to his law partner, Judge Henry Wood with these words, “Jim is one of the most eloquent speakers in Arkansas.” I was flattered, of course, and felt unworthy, but I know his words were sincere. While it was not important the governor did not know that I never finished college, I hope you won’t miss this important point. It’s not so much the amount of formal education we have, but the fact we never stop learning.
Most people have no desire to be a public speaker, but to succeed in most any job or career in today’s society we must be able to express ourselves by the proper use of our language. Of course, there is no substitute for practice, but I believe the best and fastest way to become a good communicator is to improve our vocabulary. This is to say, increase the number of words we know and can use in the proper way.
The late Earl Nightingale, whom I worked for and knew personally, conducted a study of college graduates by tracking them over a 20-year period to see if there was any link between their word power and their earning power.
The link he found was so significant that he said, “Without a single exception, in every case those who had scored highest on the vocabulary test given in college were in the top income group, while those who scored the lowest were in the bottom income group.” What is important here is to understand that we are never too old or too young to learn new and interesting words and ideas. All it takes is a commitment to begin and stay with it.
I heard about a man in prison who decided not to waste his life while he was locked up, so he began to copy all the words on a page in the dictionary day after day. After he was released, his newly acquired vocabulary and attitude carried him to great success. If you would like to check it out, here is a vocabulary building website that may be of value to you, Here is one word of caution, especially to parents -- too much social media is doing great harm to the ability of many children to write, spell, think and listen, skills they will need later in life. Technology can replace some things, but other critical skills it cannot and will not.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)