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  1. #1
    Wonderer Samuel De Mazarin's Avatar
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    Default The Vocabulary Thread

    Salutations, friends!

    With this post, I inaugurate The Vocabulary Thread (inspired by Beat's thread on developing a better vocabulary), where fellow sesquipedalians, logophiles, and lexicographers can collectively revile the paucity of the Microsoft Auto-Correct function's word-list and revel in a more fustian brand of English... though some might castigate me, demur, beg to differ... a first-class vocabulary is not inevitably the cause of prolixity, but may indeed result in a tighter prose-style which abjures excessively epexegetical writing in favor of snappier clauses with clearer demarcations of meaning(s)...

    So... the preceding paragraph is an example of what not to do on this thread. The sheer gymnastics of word-use (cramming into one's routine as many technically difficult and obscure elements as flawlessly as possible) is not what we're here for... rather, we are here to introduce and/or share with our fellows some of the more interesting words or phrases that we have come across.

    Threads tend to be rhizomatic and thus in good faith, we should attempt to prevent such de-centering for the sake of really mining this thread for new knowledge.

    I shall attempt a prototypical post, but the general rules to be followed are as follow:

    1) No word shall be posted without posters' actually utilizing the words in sentences of their own composition. Even if the meaning of the word is manifest in the sample sentence, the poster should succinctly gloss the denotation(s) and/or connotation(s) in a follow-up note. Dictionary definitions are fine, but I think people who really love words should be able to provide definitions in their own words, which will frequently overlap with dictionary definitions.

    2) All posters should make some attempt at providing rudimentary etymologies of words... for people to truly appreciate a word, as with a country or an individual, a history, however brief, should be told. However, as with history, too much of it gets to be quite boring... so only the bare minimum ought to intrude... for instance, in my gloss on "sesquipedalian", I describe how it essentially means 'one-and-a-half-footed', but don't go into how Horace used it... give us enough to get the essential flavor of the word. We are not all lexicographers, however, so quoting reliable sources should be more than fine here...


    _________________________________________

    Here are a few from my side:

    "I loathe mere sesquipedalians! They have no sense of literary balance and their love of obscure words comes handy only in taking standardized exams or impressing thirty-year-olds who wear braces."

    sesquipedalian (adj., can function as a n.): one who is partial to long words.

    etymology: one-and-a-half-footed... (Latin)

    ---------

    "Many religious traditions dramatically illustrate their central messages by playing with and transfiguring taboos, such as with the marriage of Draupadi to five men in the Mahabharata or the role of blood in the Christian sacrament."

    taboo (adj.): profane, off-limits, conventionally frowned upon...

    etymology: interestingly, taboo derives from the Tongan "tapu" or other cognate forms in the Austronesian language families... while "tapu" did mean off-limits, it also indicated something sacred and pure... it is entirely understandable that in attempting to maintain the purity of, say, a sacred shrine, priests and religious laymen would pronounce it "tapu" and restrict access for fear of its being defiled.

    -------

    "It is not uncommon that verbosity stems from an insecurity about being misunderstood. Hence, where a few words would suffice, the speaker goes on and on trying to explain himself and qualify his explanations for the sake of specificity, quickly inundating his audience in unnecessary epexegesis and leaving it more confused and in the dark than ever before."

    epexegesis (n.): the use of a word or several words to explain another statement.

    etymology: derived through prefixation from "exegesis". "ep" (in addition to, beyond, stemming from, around, etc.) + exegesis [from Gk. exegeisthai "explain, interpret," from ex- "out" + hegeisthai "to lead, guide."].
    Madman's azure lie: a zen miasma ruled.

    Realize us, Madman!

    I razed a slum, Amen.

    ...............................................

  2. #2
    señor member colmena's Avatar
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    So what's the goal?

    Should we all work hard to understand one another?

    As for your use of language: Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. "To be or not to be?" asks Shakespeare's Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long. Joyce, when he was frisky, could put together a sentence as intricate and as glittering as a necklace for Cleopatra, but my favorite sentence in his short story "Eveline" is this one: "She was tired." At that point in the story, no other words could break the heart of a reader as those three words do.
    My Blargh: How to Write With Style, by Kurt Vonnegut

    Depicted as an " art that takes away superfluous material", Michaelangelo viewed sculpture as something that was already in the stone and that all that it needed was a professional chisel to set the sculpture free.
    I can't help but find complex vocabulary in prose elitist and distracting. Also, it's probably the worst way to really penetrate the psyche, as the non-didactic should.

    But then, I am hardly learned.
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    Ti Ne Fi Ni

    -How beautiful, this pale Endymion hour.
    -What are you talking about?
    -Endymion, my dear. A beautiful youth possessed by the moon.
    -Well, forget about him and get to bed.
    -Yes, my dear.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by colmena View Post
    I can't help but find complex vocabulary in prose elitist and distracting. Also, it's probably the worst way to really penetrate the psyche, as the non-didactic should.
    Yeah, I forgot to mention that. Unless you're giving a speech at Cambridge you can sound like an asshole when you use "college words." [Oh, this isn't that other vocabulary thread. Heh. Same difference.]

  4. #4
    señor member colmena's Avatar
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    And verse, too. I never got the hang of those.
    http://badges.mypersonality.info/badge/0/6/68764.png
    Ti Ne Fi Ni

    -How beautiful, this pale Endymion hour.
    -What are you talking about?
    -Endymion, my dear. A beautiful youth possessed by the moon.
    -Well, forget about him and get to bed.
    -Yes, my dear.

  5. #5
    Wonderer Samuel De Mazarin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by colmena View Post
    So what's the goal?

    Should we all work hard to understand one another?
    The goal is simple. Enjoy words, particularly words as utilized in the English language... English is blessed with possibly the most enormous and diverse vocabulary of all time, largely due to its ease in accepting new words and centrality in trans-national political communication.

    I did list sesquipedalians, logophiles, and lexicographers as the primary audience.

    Quote Originally Posted by colmena View Post
    I can't help but find complex vocabulary in prose elitist and distracting. Also, it's probably the worst way to really penetrate the psyche, as the non-didactic should.

    But then, I am hardly learned.
    Doesn't it depend? Joyce and Shakespeare had well-endowed lexicons. And it rendered their prose colorful and evocative in a wonderful way. Perhaps the prose (and verse) was purple, but it was perfect for their styles. They appreciated that certain moments could do with the simplest and most bald phrasing, utilizing largely Germanic-root words... so they used it.

    Hemingway famously revolted against this sort of writing, the use of ten-gallon hat words. He, Albert Camus, and Herman Hesse (the latter two either in their original languages or even in good translation) are excellent examples of writing that needn't be highly 'erudite' insofar as diction is concerned in order to be powerful, wise, and well-written.

    So we see two kinds (broadly) of writers who write differently... but they work in their own genres and styles...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flak View Post
    Yeah, I forgot to mention that. Unless you're giving a speech at Cambridge you can sound like an asshole when you use "college words." [Oh, this isn't that other vocabulary thread. Heh. Same difference.]
    Jack Flak sounds like all those kids who despised "SAT" words... it smacks of reverse discrimination. A "college" word like, say, conflate captures something which ordinary words just cannot...

    "You're conflating two entirely opposed ideas here..."

    Other phrases, like forcing together, are clumsier. So sometimes elevated diction can help with clarifying one's ideas. For instance, how would you describe "phlegmatic" in 'ordinary' language?


    But... I'll leave you with a quotation from Junot Diaz's excellent first novel, "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao":


    "You have to give it to Oscar. He didn't let up. He just kept hitting on [Jenni Munoz] with absolutely no regard for self. In the halls, in front of the bathroom door, in the dining hall, on the buses, dude became ubiquitous. Pinned comic books to her door, for Christ's sake."


    He's teasing the protagonist for his nerdish ways... but even if that weren't part of the equation... it sounds so much funnier, so much more evocative, when he says "dude became ubiquitous" than "dude was everywhere".

    Words have different colors and shades... if your canvas only requires certain colors, great... it'll probably work beautifully if the inspiration and hard work is there... but don't revile others who need more exotic shades to realize their visions.

    It's like saying Raphael was better than Picasso because the former's work was more realistic. They both had completely different aesthetics. Language works the same way.
    Madman's azure lie: a zen miasma ruled.

    Realize us, Madman!

    I razed a slum, Amen.

    ...............................................

  6. #6
    Wonderer Samuel De Mazarin's Avatar
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    Anyway... I don't know why I'm defending elevated diction... if you don't like it, don't post here... if there's no one else on MBTIc who enjoys this aspect of language, then the thread will die.
    Madman's azure lie: a zen miasma ruled.

    Realize us, Madman!

    I razed a slum, Amen.

    ...............................................

  7. #7
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    It seems to me that we perceive by making distinctions and the more distinctions, the more we perceive.

    And words, of course, are distinctions par excellence.

    So I have new thoughts through using new words.

    And as I develop my thought, I reach for new words.

    It would do me no good to learn words from the dictionary for they would be adrift from my ongoing thought.

    So I seize upon new words, I roll them around my tongue, and I incorporate them into my understanding of the world.

    I have been regularly accused of using big words but big words, particularly new words, use me.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Samuel De Mazarin View Post
    "You're conflating two entirely opposed ideas here..."
    If you lead an insular academic life, you may never convince anyone you're either arrogant or nerdy with a statement like that, and everyone may understand you. But the reverse is true in regard to a general, unknown, or decidedly uneducated audience.

    Besides, as stated, I didn't even notice this was a new thread.

  9. #9
    Wonderer Samuel De Mazarin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flak View Post
    If you lead an insular academic life, you may never convince anyone you're either arrogant or nerdy with a statement like that, and everyone may understand you. But the reverse is true in regard to a general, unknown, or decidedly uneducated audience.
    Certain ideas and theories which have great utility just can't be expressed as simply as champions of 'ordinary language' would desire. Even if no unusual words are utilized, the concepts require a great amount of work to get into... people who are willing to do that kind of legwork generally have a good vocabulary and can understand the nuances separating more unusual (though not for that reason impractical) words.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flak View Post
    Besides, as stated, I didn't even notice this was a new thread.
    Cool.
    Madman's azure lie: a zen miasma ruled.

    Realize us, Madman!

    I razed a slum, Amen.

    ...............................................

  10. #10
    Wonderer Samuel De Mazarin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Victor View Post
    It seems to me that we perceive by making distinctions and the more distinctions, the more we perceive.

    And words, of course, are our representations of distinctions par excellence.

    So I express new thoughts more precisely through using new words.

    And as I develop my thought, I reach for new words.

    It would do me no good to learn words from the dictionary for they would be adrift from my ongoing thought.

    So I seize upon new words, I roll them around my tongue, and I incorporate them into my understanding of the world.
    I agree with this a great deal... though I'd amend it as I've done in bold.

    The key to all of this, as colmena pointed out, is that we not indulge in the unnecessary use of words... where a simple, German-root word will do, use that... where a more obscure Latinate word does the job much better, use that one.

    Also, in literature, it should be noted that using exotic words is sometimes crucial to the effect of the writing... anyone who's read Salman Rushdie, Junot Diaz, or Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange would understand that...
    Madman's azure lie: a zen miasma ruled.

    Realize us, Madman!

    I razed a slum, Amen.

    ...............................................

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