What are speech superlatives? How can they possibly affect people’s perceptions of you? We share tips & tricks you can use to improve your speech patterns in the future.
What Is A Superlative?
A superlative is a part of speech, usually an adjective or adverb, that is expressing the utmost or highest in quality. Some examples of superlatives would include bravest, most fiercely, or most nervous like I am right now given that this is one of my first videos for the channel. More generally, a superlative can also refer to an exaggerated expression of praise such as “The best thing ever”; This is the type of superlative we’ll be talking about more in depth today.
These types of superlatives are definitely becoming more common as a sort of conversational crutch. Many people these days, especially Americans and particularly people under the age of 30, are using these kinds of superlatives to describe really any opinion they might have on any subject at this point. For example, something like “I saw this picture on Instagram, it was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen!”.
So you may be asking, why do these superlatives matter? Our answer is that using superlatives this much robs our conversations of three things: variety, specificity, and veracity. Those may be fairly large vocabulary words but we’ll give definitions too.
Excessive Use Of Superlatives Robs Our Conversations Of Three Things
As you might well imagine, there are all kinds of other words in the English language that we can use to describe things aside from simply, best, or worst. For example, if you were to use words like sweetest, largest, or coldest, even these things while they’re not necessarily complex, provide much more detail than just best or worst. Of course, you could always default to the old standby: most amazing f**king thing ever! Just kidding.
If you use other words aside from just best and worst, not only does it add more variety but you can make your point much more clearly. It’s always helpful for the listener if you can provide a more nuanced position in your speech. That way, things aren’t just as clear as mud. Let’s say for example, instead of saying “That was the best chili I’ve ever had”, you can say “That was the most flavorful, spiciest chili I’ve ever had”. That way, people know that you enjoyed it but they also know specifically why.
Last of these three points is veracity and this is the one we feel superlatives really hit the hardest. If you overuse superlatives in your speech, it will eventually diminish your trustworthiness among your peers. If you’re using these words all the time, they’re going to lose their impact so people will stop listening to what you’re saying. As you can tell by now, we think that avoidance of superlatives is one of the hallmarks of speaking like a gentleman.
In A Nutshell
We think that being a gentleman is an aspiration that every man can achieve and it’s not tied to wealth or status. On that note, how you speak is something you have direct control over. You can change it.
Superlatives Interfere With Your Ability To Make Reasoned Arguments & Have Nuanced Opinions
After all, when someone offers their opinion, their end goal is usually to try to convince their listener of their own point of view.
For example, instead of saying “You have to see this awesome movie I just saw!” go for “I just saw a really tense psychological drama and I think you should check it out!”, the latter provides a little bit more interest. Of course, if you have natural charisma when speaking, this goes a long way but supplementing that with some rhetorical skill can definitely help you in the long run.
Try to demonstrate that your opinion is carefully considered and that it’s coming from a place of experience. That way, your listener will be that much more likely to trust you. After all, it’s definitely more relatable to give people your own experiences rather than just gossiping about what Lisa down the block thought of something.
Superlatives Make Your Reasoning Cheap & Untrustworthy
Another example is saying that something is the “best in the world.” Well, if you haven’t been all around the world to have multiple examples, you really don’t know if it’s the best in the world or not and other people might pick up on the fact that you might not know what you’re talking about.
So make an effort to observe the complexities and things like art or sports and use a nuanced vocabulary to describe just how you feel about them. Put it this way, the more you use superlatives, the less likely people are going to pay attention to what you say.
Love & Hate
Here’s an important subset of using superlatives. The words love and hate. Especially in American culture, these two words are used all the time even though if you think about it, they’re pretty extreme. For example, if you say “I love ice cream!”, really? Do you love ice cream? You might love your family, it’s probably more likely that you simply enjoy ice cream very much.
To put that another way, if you truly do love someone or something, maybe it’s best not to put them in the same linguistic category as a simple dessert. If you love everything about which you feel positively, that’s kind of another way of saying you don’t really love anything. There’s no nuance to your emotions.
Of course, all of these points are the same for the use of hate as well. Think of it this way, do you really love Cheetos as much as you love your grandma? Probably not! Especially because a bag of Cheetos isn’t going to send you $20 on your birthday.
Tips & Tricks To Lessen Use Of Superlatives
- Take a day to observe how many superlatives you use yourself or how many you hear in daily life. For example, if you turn on the radio and the DJ says, “The best mix of hard rock”, count that as one. If you step outside your car and think to yourself, “This is the hottest day ever”, that’s two.
- Take a day to observe all the things you say that you love or hate regardless of the context or how you might have meant it in the moment. For example, you might say “I love pizza”, “I love my new smartphone app” or “I love this yoga class I’ve been taking!”, after a while, take some time to examine this list. When were you being truly genuine and when were you needlessly exaggerating? After observing these habits, make an effort to try to construct your sentences differently and with more nuance in the future.
- Increase your vocabulary. For example, you could pick up a word of the day calendar, try to read more books, listen to more radio, anywhere that people are using words you might not already be familiar with.
- Come to the Gentleman’s Gazette YouTube channel and watch more of my videos!
To wrap up, our philosophy on this topic is simple. If you want to be a more genuine person, you have to speak genuinely. As we mentioned at the beginning of the video, increasing your vocabulary doesn’t have to come across as pretentious or elitist as long as you’re doing it for the right reasons.
In other words, don’t use complex vocabulary just to seem superficially smarter than those around you. You should look at this as an activity for self-improvement. Think about it this way, your new vocabulary should ultimately make you seem more genuine, not less. Say what you mean and mean what you say.