Why you need to be careful with shades of meaning – don’t make this mistake

How would YOU react?

What would YOU think if you got this message:


My friend Melissa Karydas* told me this interesting story about someone who used “the right word in the wrong context”.


By that expression – I mean a word that is technically correct as s synonym– yet inappropriate in the wrong context.

The person from an ESL background (English as  s Second Language) was trying to be friendly.

He was also trying to use other words that mean friendly.

One of those words he tries using was: intimate

Here are some standard definitions of intimate





associated in close personal relations: an intimate friend.

characterized by or involving warm friendship or a personally close or familiar association orfeeling: an intimate greeting.

very private; closely personal: one’s intimate affairs.

characterized by or suggesting privacy  warmly cozy: an intimate little café.

(of an association, knowledge, understanding, etc.) arising from close personal connection or familiar experience.
So this writer wanted to be closer friends and wrote to a girl the message at the start of this post:
I want to be intimate with you.
Of course, in English, that expression has a deeper, often sexual connotation.
If you just substitute friendly – I was to be friendly with you – it seems innocent – but use intimate and it sounds inappropriate.
TB training group
So my recommendation to ESL students wanting to expand their vocabularies and show their extra words.
Check with some native speakers if it is acceptable to use certain words.
When I help ESL business people with Business English we often include a session were people can ask me any English or
Australian expressions that confuse them.
I remember some Chinese executives I was working with  being very concerned about a disease they hadn’t heard of before – a disease that seemed to strike many of their Australian colleagues.
The Chinese business people seriously wanted to know if they could take any medication to protect them from the disease.
The disease that Australians kept talking about: Mondayitis!
(Monday-itis is a joke ailment of not wanting to work on a Monday. It’s not a real sickness)
* You may recall that Melissa is my “motivated Mum” friend who developed a visual learning system to help her daughter who had a language learning disability.
Mel + G
I use Melissa’s LookingLearning system to help my two kids with their schoolwork!
I can also see the potential of using her methodology to help ESL students understand different words.
Here’s an example of how she visually explains the word  VILE.
I wonder how Melissa would visually explain intimate and Monday -itis!!


TB gov blg

If you have any work colleagues from different language backgrounds who could benefit from my coaching, please contact me. I get great results in identifying the potential “dangers” and helping speakers avoid the problems.

I have plenty of experience in helping speakers from a wide variety of backgrounds (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, French, German, Middle Eastern). I’ve even helped Brits and Americans and Canadiansavoid embarrassment when presenting to Australian audiences.


If you enjoyed this post – Let’s connect:

If you found this post interesting you can follow me and connect with me.

I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious  business communication tips.



tony biancotti


Linked In – under Tony Biancotti


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