Farktake on Verbosity

During a recent web trek during which I looked for words we don’t hear much anymore, I kept slamming into the concrete wall of our dumbed-down society. There’s a lot of reverse snobbery out there. Site after site warned me that if I have a healthy vocabulary, and I’m not too intimidated to use it, I’ll be judged as trying to sound clever, or impressive, or of trying to insult others with my “Ten-dollar words”. Folks, these words of wisdom came from sites that give pointers to people who want to write...

Excuse me? Let me see if I understand this. Although I love words and have collected many through the years, I’m supposed to revert to my high school language level so that I won’t isolate myself from society? Why should I dumb down? Why can’t you put a little effort into improving yourself? (I hope you know that my use of “you” and “yourself” is purely rhetorical. I’m not singling anyone out here.)
I enjoy using words we seldom hear because I simply love words. That’s it. I’m not trying to show you how intelligent I am, or that I think I’m better than anyone else. I get excited over the possibilities that a large, colorful palette of words gives me. I enjoy climbing into the subtle nuance of a thought that is beautifully and creatively expressed. I think it’s easier to express a thought with the appropriate word; sometimes in simplifying, the original intent can get derailed. Someone on one site or another that I visited had this to say:

“With as rich a lexicon as English, one is able to convey subtle meaning by choosing the most appropriate word for the situation. In fact, brevity—not conceit—becomes the intent. Language can also be playful. Rather than just a means of communicating a thought, conversation can be art. Language lovely to hear, words flowing from thought and lovely to speak, a medium as rich as oils on canvas.”

Seems they agree with me.

I remember the exact moment that the love of words hit me square on the head. It was in the spring of 1978 and I was reading my current volume of the diaries of Virginia Woolf whilst lying in a hammock that was stretched between two avocado trees in my back yard. In one entry she wrote that on that particular day she had remained recumbent. Later that day I got out my dictionary and looked it up. I loved it. I wanted to use it, but I was afraid to. Instead, I got a blank book and began a diary of my own, which eventually led to this weblog. (I have nearly sixty handwritten journals and I sometimes miss that sort of thing, but I’m firmly hooked on blogging. So it goes.) For years I maintained a vocabulary journal as well. I kept it and a dictionary next to me when I read and if I came across a word I didn’t know, I wrote it in the journal, looked it up and copied out its part of speech, its pronunciation, and its definition.

Paul and I once set ourselves to the task of not swearing for a week. Instead of “Oh shit!” we had to come up with a more creative statement such as, “That was as perturbing as stepping into a vast sea of excrement!” It was a difficult exercise, but we had a good time with it and enjoyed a lot of laughter.

So I’m going to lay out a few words here that I love. Feel free to add your own.
  • Elocution - the art of effective public speaking
  • Insipid - lacking taste or savor
  • Innocuous - producing no offense or harm
  • Insidious - treacherous, harmful but enticing
  • Obsequious - marked by or exhibiting a fawning attentiveness
  • Facetious - meant to be humorous or funny, often inappropriately
  • Nebulous - indistinct, vague
  • Flummox - confuse
  • Plebeian - crude or coarse in manner or style, common
  • Grandiloquent - an extravagantly colorful, pompous, or bombastic manner, especially in language
And here’s a new word for you:
  • Farktate: full (as from eating) to the point of bursting; completely satiated.
    “Wow! That Whopper left me utterly farktate!”
Now get out there and use it at least once today.