Be honest: Do you know this word?

by marciayudkin 15 replies
From time to time I ask relatives and friends if they know a word I have seen in marketing, and usually I'm surprised at the responses.

It's easy to overestimate the vocabulary of your target audience, particularly if you yourself are a word person.

So, in that spirit, I'm asking about a word I saw this morning in a marketing promotion: Emissary. "Become an Emissary," read the headline.

Honestly, is this a word you understand at a glance? In your reply, please say whether or not you're a native English speaker.

Thanks!

Marcia Yudkin

P.S. Other words I've asked people about included "cheeky" and "obstreperous."
#copywriting #copywriting #honest #marketing #vocabulary #word #word choice
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  • Profile picture of the author GordonJ
    Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

    From time to time I ask relatives and friends if they know a word I have seen in marketing, and usually I'm surprised at the responses.

    It's easy to overestimate the vocabulary of your target audience, particularly if you yourself are a word person.

    So, in that spirit, I'm asking about a word I saw this morning in a marketing promotion: Emissary. "Become an Emissary," read the headline.

    Honestly, is this a word you understand at a glance? In your reply, please say whether or not you're a native English speaker.

    Thanks!

    Marcia Yudkin

    P.S. Other words I've asked people about included "cheeky" and "obstreperous."
    Native English mangler and malaprop specialist here.

    Your post made me think of Jeffrey Lant, who made his Harvard educated vocabulary a part of his work. I always felt he was somehow qualifying me as a prospect. Whenever I see a word like you described, I wonder if it was intentional.

    Or just someone inexperienced. The rest of the promotion provides an answer, usually.

    I suppose it depends on where the promotion is when I intersect with it.

    GordonJ

    PS. I owned everything Lant wrote, so, maybe, his marketing lexicon triggered subconscious predilection toward Ivy League language, maybe cause Kennedy was President when I came of vocabulary age. My personal style is more minimalist seeking base morephemes which stimulate reaction.

    If the promotion was in DIPLOMAT magazine, then I would suspect the reader would know what emissary meant.
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  • Profile picture of the author laurencewins
    Hi Marcia.

    Yes English is my first language.
    Your question reminds me of the Star Trek spin off - Deep Space Nine where the character "Benjamin Sisko" was regarded as being "the Emissary" which, in their context, meant he was a spiritual leader.

    When I Google it, I find this information.

    emissary
    ˈɛmɪs(ə)ri/
    noun
    noun: emissary; plural noun: emissaries
    a person sent as a diplomatic representative on a special mission.
    synonyms:envoy, ambassador, diplomat, delegate, attaché, legate, consul, plenipotentiary, minister; More

    I hope this all helps you.
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  • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
    Native English speaker.

    Marcia, I knew 'emissary' and obstreperous (had it applied to me a few times).

    But 'cheeky' caught me - I though it had something to do with booty shorts a size too small...
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  • Profile picture of the author DABK
    Yes to emissary, cheeky and obstreperous.

    English is not my first.

    However, I've wasted countless hours reading.

    Second however... in many of the books I've read, emissaries had sealed letters that, among other things, asked the recipient to kill the emissary. So, I don't know that I'd ever want to be an emissary.

    Third however, I'd be willing to bet a huge amount of dollars that some 85% of the people I work with have never come across the word, so, unless my target audience was not writers, people holding master's degrees in English or journalism, I don't think I'd be using it.

    Next one to ask people about: pulchritude. It's a fine word, I like it myself, but in several years of asking, I'm the only one who knows what it means.

    And that despite of the fact that America spends trillions on trying to achieve pulchritude. Or is it, to maintain it?

    Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

    From time to time I ask relatives and friends if they know a word I have seen in marketing, and usually I'm surprised at the responses.

    It's easy to overestimate the vocabulary of your target audience, particularly if you yourself are a word person.

    So, in that spirit, I'm asking about a word I saw this morning in a marketing promotion: Emissary. "Become an Emissary," read the headline.

    Honestly, is this a word you understand at a glance? In your reply, please say whether or not you're a native English speaker.

    Thanks!

    Marcia Yudkin

    P.S. Other words I've asked people about included "cheeky" and "obstreperous."
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  • Profile picture of the author Jonathan 2.0
    Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

    So, in that spirit, I'm asking about a word I saw this morning in a marketing promotion: Emissary. "Become an Emissary," read the headline.
    Well it's an interesting word. However I would guess most Markets wouldn't understand it.
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  • Profile picture of the author Princess Balestra
    I figure an emissary is an awkward fart seeps out at the top level.

    President knows. Queena England knows. But they both smile sweetly ... an' go banquet.
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    Lightin' fuses is for blowin' stuff together.

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    • Profile picture of the author Jonathan 2.0
      Originally Posted by Princess Balestra View Post

      I figure an emissary is an awkward fart seeps out at the top level.

      President knows. Queena England knows. But they both smile sweetly ... an' go banquet.
      I still have no idea what you're on about most of the time:: Seems very creative though.
      : )
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      "Each problem has hidden in it an opportunity so powerful that it literally dwarfs the problem. The greatest success stories were created by people who recognized a problem and turned it into an opportunity."―Joseph Sugarman
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      • Profile picture of the author Princess Balestra
        Originally Posted by Jonathan 2.0 View Post

        I still have no idea what you're on about most of the time:: Seems very creative though.
        : )
        Mebbe plays better in the refined & confined atmosphere of a PALACE ... where seepage from buttcrack is either the ultimate faux pas ... or secret pleasure.

        Tellya, I gotta stay offa mixin' baked beans, romance novels — an' incisive forum commentin'.
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        Lightin' fuses is for blowin' stuff together.

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        • Profile picture of the author Cam Connor
          Originally Posted by Princess Balestra View Post

          Mebbe plays better in the refined & confined atmosphere of a PALACE ... where seepage from buttcrack is either the ultimate faux pas ... or secret pleasure.

          Tellya, I gotta stay offa mixin' baked beans, romance novels — an' incisive forum commentin'.
          You gotta stay off a lot of things, PB.
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  • Profile picture of the author Cam Connor
    Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

    From time to time I ask relatives and friends if they know a word I have seen in marketing, and usually I'm surprised at the responses.

    It's easy to overestimate the vocabulary of your target audience, particularly if you yourself are a word person.

    So, in that spirit, I'm asking about a word I saw this morning in a marketing promotion: Emissary. "Become an Emissary," read the headline.

    Honestly, is this a word you understand at a glance? In your reply, please say whether or not you're a native English speaker.

    Thanks!

    Marcia Yudkin

    P.S. Other words I've asked people about included "cheeky" and "obstreperous."
    Yes, I know the word emissary. It's kind of a vague word though, so I don't really know what it means without more context.

    That said, I wouldn't use it in copy.
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  • Profile picture of the author jimbo13
    Cheeky is common usage in the UK. I doubt a single child has not been called cheeky at some point.Usually at least once a week. It is a very mild rebuke.One of endearment really.

    When a child makes a smart comment, but not a rude or offensive one, you normally say 'Cheeeeeeeekey' or 'cheeky-monkey' or 'Don't be cheeky' or about an adult, 'He's a cheeky chappy.'

    Maybe because you give a child a little pinch on their cheeks instead of a light smack on he backside if more serious.

    Obstreporous. Most people in UK would probably not know what this meant but if you said 'don't be stroppy' or 'don't get in a strop' they all would know what you meant.

    Emissary. I can imagine most people in UK not knowing what it means exactly even if they have heard the word. It is Diplomatic so if not in context of Diplomatic Service then the person using it is a prat if you know what that word means.

    Dan

    PS: I know you know what they all mean so not a lesson for you just what I think UK English speakers would know off the top of their heads,
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  • Profile picture of the author Zack Zeller
    "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people" -H.L. Mencken

    I've even heard a story from John Caples how changing the word "repair" to "fix" significantly boosted conversions in one sales letter.

    U.S. native here and I still don't know what obstreporous means- but I think it can be treated with penicillin!

    Keep Killing It
    -ZZ
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  • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
    Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

    From time to time I ask relatives and friends if they know a word I have seen in marketing, and usually I'm surprised at the responses.

    It's easy to overestimate the vocabulary of your target audience, particularly if you yourself are a word person.

    So, in that spirit, I'm asking about a word I saw this morning in a marketing promotion: Emissary. "Become an Emissary," read the headline.

    Honestly, is this a word you understand at a glance? In your reply, please say whether or not you're a native English speaker.

    Thanks!

    Marcia Yudkin

    P.S. Other words I've asked people about included "cheeky" and "obstreperous."
    I know what "Emissary" means...but I had to think about "obstreperous" for a second. I wouldn't use it in conversation.

    In my opinion.....

    I wouldn't use "Emissary" unless the rest of the sentence explained what it was by the context.

    "obstreperous"? No. Again, unless the context explained clearly what it meant. And why would you waste time doing that?

    The only time these words should be used is if you know the audience understands what they mean...and you are being "one of them".
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  • Profile picture of the author Jessica Amboos
    I'm not a native English speaker but I've encountered the word before however it didn't ring a bell on what it actually means until I looked it up. It's not even a word that's often used by regular people. Most of us will say it's an agent or a representative but will not use the word emissary because it won't be easily understood.
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  • Profile picture of the author BradKasten
    Yes to Emissary, but I think they could have substituted a better word like Agent or even Messenger.

    I know what cheeky means because I love Monty Python. But I didn't know what obstreperous meant, I had to look it up.

    Native English speaker.
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