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100 Words to Make You Sound Smart


Below, a few words to make you sound smart at your next cocktail party, complete with example sentences.


1. A mild, indirect, or vague word used instead of one considered harsh, blunt, or offensive. 2. The use of such words.

Except in times of crisis, and sometimes even then, his schedule allowed him at least two or three hours for "personal staff time," a phrase that on the 1980 campaign plane had been considered a euphemism for "nap time." Meese laughed when I told him the campaign joke that Reagan’s best-known movie had been reissued under the title "Staff Time for Bonzo."

-- Lou Cannon, President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime, 1991

Totalitarianism and other forms of tyranny flourish on euphemism -- calling mass killings or deportations "ethnic cleansings" for instance; therefore seeing and naming the object for what it really is can be a weapon for political liberty.

-- Thomas L. Jeffers, editor, The Norman Podhoretz Reader, 2004


Highly complicated; intricate and involved.

The Professional Boxing Safety Act ensures that all boxing events in the US are approved and supervised by state athletic officials; medical services and insurance are provided to all boxers; and a nationwide system of boxer identification and suspension enforcement has been established. However, little appears to have changed regarding the business side of boxing. Professional boxing remains a secretive and inexplicable mix of private deal making, byzantine ratings systems, and restrictive contracting practices. If professional boxing is ever to become the truly great and honorable sport it deserves to be, these areas must be reformed.

-- Senator John McCain, Senate testimony,

March 24, 1998

The United States, with its 35-percent corporate income tax and its byzantine rules for taxing worldwide profits, is not a particularly friendly tax environment, especially compared with Bermuda, where there is no corporate income tax.

-- Jonathan Weisman, "A Question of Patriotism", Washington Post, September 28, 2002


A person who manipulates or controls another for malicious purposes, especially by force of personality.

ED: But in front of the jury they had it that Doris was a saint; the whole plan had been mine, I was a Svengali who'd forced Doris to join my criminal enterprise.

-- from the film The Man Who Wasn’t There, 2001

[Sydney] Carroll was a man of conceit and power, something of a Svengali in London theatrical management since he liked to assume total influence over those he put under contract.

-- Alexander Walker, Vivien: A Life of Vivien Leigh, 1989

Copyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Reproduced by permission from 100 Words to Make You Sound Smart.

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