PR Fish Bowl

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TGIF: PR People and the Love of Language

By and large, PR people love language – not just English, but any language in which a word or turn of phrase most perfectly captures what we are trying to communicate. Sometimes raison d’être is just so much more colorful than “reason for existence” or “arrividerci baby” more impactful than “goodbye.” Recently the German “kummerspeck” –excess weight gained from emotional overeating (grief bacon) –has entered the lexicon.

But the language that seems to contribute the most interesting words and most perfectly sum up a feeling for me come from the nearly dead, rarely spoken language of Yiddish.

In the last week alone, I received three emails that started with the word, “Oy,” just proving my point. Nothing sums up exasperation, disbelief, disappointment or pain quite like this two-letter word.

Here are some other favorites:

Tsotchke – Slavic for toys, it has evolved into the universal industry term for premiums given by companies to consumers, or other target audiences to promote brand recognition.

“Did you budget for client tsotchkes to give away at the next trade show?”

Schnorer – Originally “beggar,” it has come to mean anyone looking for a freebie at an event or taking advantage of an agency invitation by adding “plus 5” to an RSVP.

“What a schnorer! He actually wanted to take 10 extra goodie bags from the luncheon today.”

Putz – Onomatopoeia at its best! Sounds awful and describes a fool or an idiot. Has a verb usage akin to behaving in an idle manner or puttering.

“First he questioned every out-of-pocket charge, agreed upon in advance, and then he putzed around forever not paying, he’s such a putz.”

Chutzpah – Nerve, extreme arrogance, brazen presumption, chutzpah connotes courage or confidence and is often a compliment to someone whose bold move engendered success and praise.

“She asked the client to raise the retainer to 25k a month and he said yes, shows what a little chutzpah can do!” (And who can forget former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s “goyische” mispronunciation of the word when she accused President Obama of having some!)

I could go on but I would rather learn some new words or phrases from other languages to incorporate into my PR writing!

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