We Call it Highfalutin Talk

By | October 25, 2020

[October 25, 2020]  Leaders are at their best when telling us about their vision and the ways and means to achieve that vision.  Top-of-the-line leadership means being precise in what you say to avoid misunderstandings and to communicate your thinking.  That is why highfalutin talk is not recommended; unless you are purposefully obscuring something of importance.

I’m not sure about this phrase’s origin, but I do know that we used it a lot in the south where I grew up.  It meant that someone was using pretentious language and was designed to conceal, usually empty or artificial.  Such language could be flowery, high-sounding, ornate, or rhetorical. The idea is to draw attention to the words rather than the meaning, thus obscuring and hiding.

“American politicians, the pusillanimous and the mountebanks and even their opposites, used to be as highfalutin as Foghorn Leghorn with their gibes, which made politics fun for fans of Shakespeare, the Bible or obscure history.” – Unknown, found in Merriam-Webster online

 I’ve recently been listening to politicians and their electioneering leading up to the current U.S. presidential election.  Several readers sent me speeches Joe Biden containing highfalutin talk.  If we were to remember much of what President Obama said before and during his presidency, he brought such conversation to new heights.  The first question that we should ask of anyone using such talk is, “What are they trying to hide?”

The last debate, this past Thursday night, is a good example of some highfalutin talk.  Joe Biden was at his best when he made general promises of bringing people together to be Americans, setting standards on behavior that drives right-wing violence, and creating a job for the poor single-parent woman who lives down the street.  He said it better, but he used several words that I had to look up.  There were many promises and no specifics.

More recently, I hear highfalutin talk from senior military leaders.  My thinking is that I do know some things about warfare, yet, on occasion, I hear an Army General or Navy Admiral talk and be stunned in not knowing what they mean.  The words are often pompous, exaggerated, and hollow, designed to sound good but have no real meaning or to have whatever meaning the other person wanted.

Using highfalutin words is not for real leaders.  They are only for those who want to sound good but say nothing at the same time.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

23 thoughts on “We Call it Highfalutin Talk

  1. old warrior

    I see alot of high flautin words coming from senior leaders. I think they think we are stupid here down on the lower end of the food chain. I’m not impressed with such talk. If you can kick butt, then I might be impressed a little.

    1. Jonnie the Bart

      You tell ’em, old warrior. I’m with you.
      👍

  2. Mike Baker

    Gen. Satterfield, I found it interesting that you pointed out that you hear a lot of “highfalutin” talk from senior military leaders. I wonder why. Just thinking that maybe they are becoming more like college professors who need to appear smarter and to attract people to them by appearing as a better leader. But real leaders don’t use fancy, pompous language. Do they? Naw, I don’t think so.

  3. Tony B. Custer

    Highfalutin origins from the Word Detective.
    “We do know that “highfalutin” is an American coinage and first appeared in the mid-1800s. “Highfalutin” was one of a number of popular epithets of the day, including “stuffed shirt” and “stuck-up,” with which 19th century Americans expressed their disrespect for those who flaunted their wealth and power.”

    1. Nick Lighthouse

      Thanks Tony for the reference of the origins. Always great to get a followup by readers.

  4. Willie Shrumburger

    Loved the quote giving us an inkling of what high-falutin talk is like. Thanks, Gen. Satterfield. Any more examples?

  5. Shawn C. Stolarz

    Once again, an excellent article and also, I will add, well timed. Any point in our daily lives when you expect to see something elevated to a higher plain, then be on the look out for it being used for evil or bad purposes. I see some leaders using fancy language to convince others. This is true particularly among military leaders. Disagree? Just go to YouTube and search for military speeches. You will see what I am writing about here.

  6. JT Patterson

    Excellent article this morning for those of us up and out of bed early enough to read your morning post, and thank you Gen. Satterfield for posting it. I like the ideas you present in your articles and I do read them almost every day. Sometimes I skip a day but always I come back and reach each of them. The variety is excellent, current, and useful. Four thumbs up. 👍👍👍👍

      1. Tracey Brockman

        Yep, that’s it. Of course, and why else would we be here if we didn’t think so. Thanks JT for your insights.

      2. Wilson Cox

        YES!! 👍👍👍👍
        Took me a while to figure out how to put in an emoji.

  7. Mikka Solarno

    NOOOOO …. tell me it’s not so. You mean politicians use HIGHFALUTIN TALK? Heaven forbid that someone tries an old technique to convince you of something you would not ordinarily believe in.

  8. Max Foster

    Hey man, come on. Where did I hear that before. One thing can be said for Joe Biden, running for the presidency, he certainly does NOT use highfalutin language at all. In fact, he is pretty clear about what he wants (despite his flip-flopping on major issues) and having to explain himself the next day. Biden’s problem is that he is adopting radical leftist ideologies which are easily explained. You don’t need high-level, fancy words to describe it, because that is one of its attractions. It’s simple.

    1. Watson Bell

      Good point, Max. Also, we see that Joe Biden has in his running mate, K. Harris, another person who does not use highfalutin talk. This is the mark of any good leader. It means they are smart … got to get the message across to the average person. This is also why young people are so taken in by the Biden-like politicians of the world.

      1. Deplorable John

        Max and Watson, excellent comments and thanks. Whenever I hear a someone use really fancy language, my first instinct is to not trust them.

      2. Yusaf from Texas

        Yep, well said. And, excellent statement about the vulnerability of young folks – esp. those on college campuses that can’t really think for themselves.

      1. Joe Omerrod

        Right…. We are particularly sensitive to this during an election season here in the US or anywhere it is happening. And, that sensitivity is a good thing. Our BS radar is working overtime to detect any incoming bullsh$$.

  9. Randy Goodman

    Meatheads! Now that is not high falutin’ talk. Gen. Satterfield, once again, you amaze. 😊

    1. Greg Heyman

      By ‘meatheads’ I assume you mean the average reader who falls for the flowery, good-smelling talk of priviledged leaders in politics.

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