Pompous People and Pretentious Speaking

Pompous People and Pretentious Speaking

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Everyone is aware that the English language is always changing. Words that started life meaning one thing end up meaning something totally different. Who knew the word sophistication originally meant deception and dishonesty?

A far cry from how we use it today.

And it is not only words that have changed over the years. Certain single words have been replaced by two words; “on going” has replaced “continuing”, “one time” instead of “once”. In some cases, a single word has been replaced by five words, “At this moment in time” instead of “now”.

Many of these changes have crossed the Atlantic Ocean and have taken root here and, for better or worse, they have been accepted and used in day to day language and, unfortunately, into writing.

However, it is not these words and phrases that annoy me; it is the words that people use in an attempt to make themselves appear sophisticated (today’s meaning) and speak in a highfalutin manner.

And like many of the new words and phrases that have entered our language, they have originated in America.

Pompous speaking

A classic example of this is the word many Americans (and I am ashamed to say some British people) use to describe people leaving an aircraft: they describe this action as “de-planed”, but they never describe the action of boarding a plane as “planeing”.

Some years ago an American naval vessel sunk (I believe it was a submarine; isn’t that what they are supposed to do?). When the gentleman in charge of this problem was asked would they be raising the sunken vessel he replied: ”we will be de-watering it in the next few days”.

Apparently, the ship did not actually sink, it just “watered”

The following examples of highfalutin language may have originated on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, but I was made aware of them by people in this country using them.

The first was on the BBC early morning news programme Today.

A lady whose company was in conflict with another organisation was asked if her company was talking to their adversary, she replied: “we are in dialogue”. A simple yes would have done.

And finally, one that caused me to write this article came from the unfortunate events that happened in London’s West end just before Christmas.

An incident occurred in the Oxford Street area of the west end. Someone mistakenly thought they heard shots fired, and this caused people to panic and the panic spread (no thanks to people spreading the alarm on Twitter)until people felt unsafe in Oxford Streets Underground and decided to leave the station.

Luckily the incident was a false alarm and all was well.

When a top bod in charge of security was asked if the security services helped people leave the underground station he replied: “they self-evacuated”. Of course, he meant they left under their own steam.

So why do people use these terms?

In my opinion, they use them to make themselves look far more important than they are.


So what is highfalutin? One definition of “highfalutin” is someone who is self-important and tends to show off and is pompous and pretentious. They hope that by speaking in this way people will be overawed and reluctant to challenge them.

Now I do not know how many people use highfalutin speech when speaking, that is their choice, but under no circumstances should they write any sales copy in a highfalutin way.

No prospect will take a sales message seriously if they feel the writer is talking down to them.

If you are considering writing some sales copy, either a letter or copy backed up by illustrations, keep it simple.

No one will read your copy if you write “Purchase at this moment in time before our stock is exhausted”.

But they will take notice if you write “Buy now while stocks last”

Why not let DOR-2-DOR help you write some straight talking copy that will guarantee a good response to the offer on your leaflet. Get in touch with us today about producing a highly effective leaflet design.

We do not do “Highfalutin”.

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