Linen, Union and Toastmasters


What do these 3 words have in common?


Linen, the Union and Toastmasters

  1. They are nouns.
  2. They are a collection of things/persons.
  3. They are plural predicate/collective nouns.

especially if the meaning of the words are as follows:

  • Linen – a collection of clothing in a basket, normally thrown together ready for washing.
  • The Union – an organization of workers formed for the purpose of advancing its members’ interests in respect to wages, benefits, and working conditions to management. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
  • Toastmasters – a club of members of Toastmasters International. Their purpose for joining is to upgrade their leadership and public speaking skills.

Notice that the word Toastmasters is the odd one out. Why?

We can refer to one person in a Toastmasters Club as a Toastmaster.  When the plural form is utilised i.e. when we refer to more than one Toastmaster, Toastmasters (with the ‘s‘) is utilised.

However, the singular term for Linen is a shirt or a blouse. So the same with Union. The person belonging to the association is a member (of the Union).


PS — Did you know?

Sometimes at the end of a letter, after the author’s signature, we see a message headed by “PS”. Have you ever wondered what this “PS” stands for?

Contrary to what some may think, it doesn’t stand for “please” or related. In actual fact, it is abbreviated from “postscript”. The origin of this smacks of Latin (postscriptum) and the inquisitive ones can do their own research.

And if you are really that naggy and have more things to say after “PS”, go ahead and do a “PPS”. And in case you are wondering, “PPS” means post postscriptum aka additional postscript. 🙂


PS.: Got that?

PPS.: I hope so.

PPPS.: Someone’s got to be creative here!


Famous Tongue Twisters


Like to improve your pronunciation? Try reading the following tongue twisters aloud:

  • She sells sea shells by the seashore.
    The shells she sells are surely seashells.
    So if she sells shells on the seashore,
    I’m sure she sells seashore shells.”

  • “Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear
    Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair
    If Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair
    then Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t very fuzzy, was he?” 
  • “Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers” 
  • “Mamma Made Me Wash My M & M’s” 
  • The Leith police dismisseth us 
  • He had “had”. Had he had “had had”, he’d have passed the examination. 
  • “Betty Botter bought some butter but she said the butter’s bitter. If I put it in my batter it will make my batter bitter. So, she bought some better butter, better than the bitter butter and she put it in her batter and her batter was not bitter. So ’twas good that Betty Botter bought some better butter.” 
  • “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
    How many peck of pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?
    If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
    Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?” 
  • “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
    If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
    He would chuck, he would, as much as he could,
    And chuck as much as a woodchuck would
    If a woodchuck could chuck wood.” 
  • “Moses supposes his toeses are roses,
    but Moses supposes erroneously;
    for nobody’s toeses are poses of roses,
    as Moses supposes his toeses to be.” 
  • “Theophilus Thistle, the Thistle Sifter,
    Sifted a sieve of unsifted thistles.
    If Theophilus Thistle, the Thistle Sifter,
    Sifted a sieve of unsifted thistles,
    Where is the sieve of un-sifted thistles
    Theophilus Thistle, the Thistle Sifter, sifted?” 
  • “The sixth sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick.” 
  • “Amidst the mists and coldest frosts
    With barest wrists and stoutest boasts
    He thrusts his fists against the posts
    And still insists he sees the ghosts.”
    (The “S-T-S” consonant combination is very difficult for speakers of many other languages)
  • “I’m a sheet-slitter
    I slit sheets
    I’m the slickest little sheet-slitter
    That ever slit sheets.” 
  • “Toy boat, or Troy boat?” 
  • “If you keep a lot of liquor in your locker
    It is wise to put a lock upon your stock
    Or some fellow who is quicker
    Will trick you of your liquor
    If you fail to lock your liquor with a lock.”

Extracted from WikiQuote.


Can You Read?

This is an article by Dr Ralph Smedley in the Toastmasters Magazine, Dec 1963, pp 12-13:

Of course you can read; that is, you can read to yourself. But can you read aloud, to other people?

A great many people, some of them able speakers, seem unable to speak from a script in a satisfactory manner. They permit the script to break contact with the audience, and thus impair the effect of what they are saying.

You need look no further than your TV screen for evidence of this. Observe how speakers appear when reading from script. Note how the speaker glue his eyes to the copy which he is reading, and merely pronunces the words as though no one else are present.

Perhaps he glances up for an instant now and then, giving you the impression that he is winking at you. Perhaps he stops speaking when he looks up to see if you are still there, and so breaks the continuity.

Even some of our great political leaders are guilty of such mis-conduct, and some of our most experienced newscasters have the same bad habits.

Perhaps you are guilty, yourself!

Every speaker should be able to read from script without permitting it to come between him and his hearers. He should learn to look ahead in his reading, so that he can speak a sentence without looking at the script. He should be familiar with this materials that he can give the gist of it without being confined absolutely to the written or printed text.He should sultivate fluency and smoothness in his reading.

You can gain good experience by reading aloud when you are at home, or when you are alone. Practice looking ahead as you read, and see how many words or sentences you can grasp at a glance. If a member of the family will listen to you, see how much of the time you can keep your eyes on the auditor.

It will pay you, in your club, to undertake practice in reading. The program committee should frequently arrange for such reading practice.

And you might refer to Project Seven, in your Basic Training manual, for additional help.

“Throw Away Your Notes”

This is an article of the same title by Dr Ralph Smedley for Toastmasters Magazine, March 1960, pp28-29:

This is a bit of advice heard too frequently from an evaluation in a Toastmasters Club. It is not good advice, however well intended.

The use of notes is a skill which every speaker should cultivate. It is true that there is greater freedom when one speaks without reference to anything but his audience, but it is equally true that the speaker often needs the safety and reassurance given by having before him some materials with which to refresh his memory.

Use small cards for your notes. The three by five inch size is good, and even a slightly smaller card will serve. Place only a few words on each card – just enough to help your memory. Key words or phrases will remind you of the point which comes next. These should be written or typed in letters large enough to read without close scrutiny. If the cards must be held in the hand, hold them unobstrusively, and lay them down on the table except when you need them.

Never hold the cards in your hand while gesturing. Do not wave them at your audience. Do not permit them to interfere with eye contact.

Notes are a support, an insurance to the speaker. They help to keep him from forgetting or digressing. But they are good only when properly used.

Don’t throw them away. Learn to use them, by careful practice, and then when you need them, they will be a help and not a hindrance.

Effective Use of Silent Pauses in Public Speaking by David Kow and Alfred Pua

This article addresses two main points pertaining to the use of silent pauses in public speaking. These are:

Firstly, the Importance of Silent Pauses; and secondly, When to Use Silent Pauses.

Importance of Silent Pauses

To ensure our speeches are effective, and that we come across as confident speakers, we need to project our voice and speak

clearly.  We should speak at a reasonable pace that is not too fast for the audience to absorb our message, but at the same time, not too slowly as to bore our audience, and cause them to do a mental exit.  More importantly, we need to vary our pace, and pause often during our speeches.  There are many advantages of silent pauses in speeches.  Silent pauses: –




  1. Give us time to recollect our thoughts,



  2. Make us appear more confident and in control, and



  3. Allow our audience time to keep up with, and process our message.





When to Use Silent Pauses


The occasions when silent pauses are useful, or even essential, are: -:




  1. Just Before We Begin Our Speech


    When we are called upon to give our speech, we should walk up to the lectern confidently, arrange our notes, look up at the audience, and pause for a moment before speaking the first words.  We have all seen speakers uttering their first words while looking down and arranging their notes.  This does not come across very well to the audience, nor project an image of a confident speaker.

  2. When Moving from One Main Point of Our Speech to Another


    When we move from one main point of our speech to another, we should pause to signal to our audience that we are moving to a new point.  This enhances the clarity of our speech structure and avoids possible confusion on the part of the audience. Here, a pause serves the same purpose as a new paragraph in written articles.



  3. When We Want to Provide Emphasis To a Specific Point


    Pausing after we have made an important point in our speech helps to provide emphasis to the point that we have just made.  It forces the audience to reflect on the importance of the point, instead of rushing to catch up with our speech if we had continued on.   As an illustration,


    “But, Ladies & Gentlemen, in today’s increasingly competitive economic environment, do you realize that one in every three of us in this room can expect to be retrenched within the next 5 years! … …


    Here, a pause after a startling statement has been made will add emphasis to the point, and allow the audience some time to reflect on the statement, and actually feel the significance of it.

  4. When Posing the Audience a Series of Rhetorical Questions  

    If we ask the audience a series of rhetorical questions during our speech, our intention must be for the audience to answer these questions internally to themselves to lead them to the point that we want to emphasize in our speech.  It is therefore important that when we posed the audience a series of rhetorical questions, we should pause after each question to allow the audience some time to reflect on the questions.  Not doing so will leave the audience frustrated or confused, and defeat the purpose of asking these rhetorical questions.  This mistake is common among some speakers who went on to ask a series of rhetorical questions in their speeches without pauses.  As an illustration,

    “What is most important to you in life? … … Suppose you were told by your doctor tomorrow that you have only three more months to live, is that project that you have been working on till late nights everyday for the past few months, while neglecting your family, still important to you? … … So, Ladies & Gentlemen, the next time your rush around, stop to ask yourself “What Am I Rushing For?” ……”

    Here, the silence pause after each question will allow the audience some time to reflect on the questions asked, and lead them to the main message in your speech, which in this instance, is about being clear on our goals in life.



Now that you have a better understanding of the importance of silent pauses, and when to use silent pauses, practice using them in your future speeches.  Make it a habit to speak slowly, and pause in silence frequently as you speak.




  • Pause to Gather your Thoughts


  • Pause to Allow your Audience Time to Digest your Message


  • Pause for Transition between the Main Points in your Speech
  • Pause for Emphasis on your Critical Points


  • Pause to Allow the Audience to Reflect on your Rhetorical Questions, and finally,



  • Pause to Add to your Overall Effectiveness as a Speaker








Note: Reworded from a Speech of the Same Title by Alfred Pua, ATM-B





Never Use A Paragraph

I can hold my hands up and admit that I struggle to keep to this!
Time is the most important commodity in your life.
You wouldn’t purposely walk around the block just to go next door…so make sure that you don’t try to do the same
when you are communicating with other people.
Whether you like it or not…everyone prefers the sound of their own voice instead of yours. Don’t speak in single syllables…but just make sure that you GET TO THE POINT!
Action Point:
In what ways can you be more economical with your
We are bombarded with more messages than ever before…and people are becoming more and more aware that they should filter out the non-essential ones…in whatever form they are.
Make sure that are concise, precise, and accurate…and you will stand much more chance of being heard (or read).
An E-Course for a Happy and Successful Future Lesson 73 – Never Use A Paragraph When A Sentence Will Do

Limiting Beliefs


In 1519, Hernan Cortes landed at Vera Cruz on the Mexican Gulf. He was the commander of a party of Spanish conquistadors. He had 600 men, 17 horses, 13 muskets and 10 artillery pieces. He boldly set out to conquer the mighty Aztec empire. 

The Aztec army outnumbered the Spaniards 1,000 to one. It could have annihilated the invaders. It could have cut off their escape. It could have isolated and starved the enemy to surrender.

But the Aztec emperor Montezuma convinced himself that Henan Cortes was the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl.



Because the Spaniards had arrived in waterborne houses with white wings, they have magic fire that burst from tubes to kill at a distance, and their leaders ride on strange beasts.

And Aztec legend has it that the party of the god Quetzalcoatl would come to break up the Aztec empire.

The Aztec army waited in the hills. The signal to attack was never called. Believing himself doomed, believing resistance would be futile, and believing the enemy could not be defeated the emperor Montezuma submitted.

The Spaniards put the Aztec emperor in chains, they burned their captives alive, they smashed the alters of the Aztec gods, they exacted an immense tribute in gold and jewels and they ruled the Aztecs for the next 300 years.

Today, 484 years later, many of us are still shackled by our limiting beliefs.

We tell ourselves that we could not succeed, that we could not attend club meetings, and that we could not do our project speeches.

Today we break the chains that bind our wings.

Call your vice president education. 
Book a slot to do your next project speech.

Do it now.


Why are we called Toastmasters?

I was recruiting freshmen to join Toastmasters during the NUS matriculation fair. When some freshmen walked past our booth, they saw our banner with the word “Toastmasters Club” and punned, “Toast Masters? Is it a club where you learn to toast bread?” 

I’m sure you all know full well that our founder, Dr. Raplh Smedley, chose to name this wonderful organisation “Toastmasters” because we, as public speakers, are tasked to propose toasts to the audience during important functions. But does the word “Toastmasters” have anything to do with toasting bread?

The answer is YES. Let me trace the fons et origo of the word “Toast”

In ancient time, the Romans toast their bread in a fire. When the breads become too hard to chew, they would soak the bread in wine to soften it. The idea was expanded, in the late 17th century, when someone decided to drink to the health of a lady, whose name was felt to have spiced the drink like the pieces of spiced toasts that were placed in wine. 

Of course today, the word toastmasters is synomymous with a person who is learning or practicing public speaking. 

Reference. An article written by Toastmaster Audrey Lim from NUS Toastmasters Club

Origin of the word “Toast”. From The NEW OXFORD Dictionary of English.

Article submitted by mathew