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Getting A Way Without Words

By Elizabeth Major on June 16, 2015 in Other

Photo: Lady Macbeth

Photo: Lady Macbeth

At some point in my earliest years of existence, I became a logophile. I fell in love with words and felt the need to collect them, to care for them and get to know them. I read every single word that I could possibly get my hands on and especially loved the ones I didn’t understand. As I got older I started to explore the strange and unusual ones that had fallen out of everyday vernacular and now find myself indulging in the occasional trawl through the English language in search of the next mot du jour.

With a widening vocabulary gap between socio-economic groups, teenagers butchering whole sentences into letters and the emergence of predictive text technology, many people are losing touch with the art of eloquence. An average native English speaker may know as little as 20,000 different words and only use about 800 of those a day. A more educated person may be aware of more than twice as many and still only use 1000 words a day. At what point did words become so cumbersome that people felt the need to condense an apology to ‘soz’?

In praise of the art of intellectual bombast, let’s read words, even if it is only one per day. There is a Word of the Day app, for those who do not read a dictionary for fun (I’m told this is not common practice). If nothing else, you could at least have the opportunity to offend people without them realising. Why not be histrionic in speech just for fun? How else can we comment on the apricity of this time of year if we relegate our musings on weather to merely ‘cold and sunny’? If nothing else, the badinage will at least be more entertaining.

The world would be a better place if we called a woman a baffona instead of telling her she had a slight moustache. You could comment on the shape of the yonic mussels at the dinner table without offending your mother-in-law by saying the word vagina. You can blame your obsessive nose-picking on rhinotillexomania, or you can let your ex-boyfriend down gently by using the word exiguous instead of small. Of course, nobody will know what you are talking about and you could possibly lose friends, who may be more than a little piqued by your perspicacity.

Herein lies the anathema to my love affair with the written word. It turns out that most people don’t like the intimidation factor of using sesquipedalian words. The words are dismissed, the true meaning is limited to the common vocabulary and loquacity is replaced by a three-letter acronym intended to convey laughter and ridicule. The hegemony wins by maintaining the veil of nescience over the masses and we never get to feel the accomplishment of completing a crossword without using Google. At least when you are isolated by your own intelligence you can find a sequestered place in the world of fiction where you can be taken away with words.

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