12/03/2009 10:53 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Words That Work


A - I´ll always want you

B - Because my heart is true

C - Come, come, come closer

And I´ll tell you of the ABC´s


-Frankie Lymon and
the Teenagers


I’ve been glued to Dr. Frank Luntz’s 2007 book, Words That Work.  I liked it so much that I bought copies for
everyone in my office.


Luntz is a political consultant, best known for creating “The
Contract with America.”  He offers a number of fascinating ideas about
how business and political leaders can best get their points across.  


As far as communications books, I rank it right up there
with Roger Ailes,” You Are the Message
and Peggy Noonan’s Speaking Well.


All three of these authors are Republicans.  Until Barack Obama came along, Republicans
seemed to have cornered the market on people who pay attention to phrasing.


Al Franken said it best: “Language is like music.  Unfortunately, the Republicans have a Paul
McCartney in the person of Frank Luntz. 
Somehow, the Democrats got stuck with Yoko Ono.”


The Luntz book has a chapter on a specific word manipulation
that has bothered me for quite some time: how gambling suddenly became


That particular turn of phrase was coined by a former
Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Frank Fahrenkopf.  After leaving the RNC, Fahrenkopf became
president of the American Gaming Association.


To me, “gaming” means stuff like cricket, croquet and polo
-- high-browed games that aren’t played for money.


Fahrenkopf was paid by people who own casinos, slot machines
and places where people can lose piles of money.


I doubt any polo players contributed to Frank’s salary.


Frank’s organization did an incredible job of getting the
word “gaming’ into the vocabulary. 


For a long time, you could tell who was for or against the
expansion of casinos by the word they used.  
People who wanted casinos in their state said “gaming” and opponents
called it “gambling.”


Now, even natural opponents of gambling, like Baptist
ministers, will say they are opposed to “expanded gaming.”


I guess some people don’t like cricket and croquet.


I always call gambling “gambling” because I grew up around


I watched people win and lose vast sums of money.  I’ve seen people lose their houses, and
sometimes their lives, over gambling debts.


You don’t see that happening over on the cricket field.


I’m not opposed to gambling in moderation.  I’m seriously opposed to gambling being called


Luntz took part in another word manipulation that I hate --
calling the estate tax, a “death tax.”


That one worked really well for a while, but none of the
proponents ever got past the obvious: You don’t get taxed to die.  Dying is a freebie. 


Your family gets taxed when you leave a large estate.  As Luntz points out, you really only get
taxed when you leave a large estate and don’t hire lawyers and estate planners
to help you plan around the tax.


I agree with Luntz’s point. The tax only applies to people
who are lousy planners.    However, his
point doesn’t overcome my irritation with this mislabeling.


Years ago, I was trained in a field called “estate planning.”  My job was to make rich people richer and I had
a lot of clients.


If my title been “death planner” instead of “estate
planner,” I don’t think I would have had nearly as many customers.


The estate tax only applies to rich people.  But Luntz, and his ability to twist words, had
some poor and middle-class people, who will never come close to paying an
estate tax, railing against it.


Words that Work
has practical tips, like how to talk yourself into a better seat on an airplane
and advice for those who seek to lead the nation, or to help get more customers
for a business.


I may not like some of the people whom Luntz has helped, but
I have to admire his craftsmanship.


He knows the ABC’s of effective communication.


Don McNay,
CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is one of the world's leading authorities in helping
people deal with “Big Money” issues.


McNay is an award
winning, syndicated financial columnist and Huffington Post Contributor.


You can read more
about Don at


McNay founded McNay
Settlement Group, a structured settlement and financial consulting firm, in
1983 and Kentucky
Guardianship Administrators LLC in 2000. You can read more about both at


McNay has Master's
Degrees from Vanderbilt and the American
College and is in the
Eastern Kentucky University Hall of Distinguished Alumni.  


McNay has written two
books.  Most recent is Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers
and What to Do When You Win The Lottery


McNay is a lifetime
member of the Million Dollar Round Table and has four professional designations
in the financial services field.