Page the Second


A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

In Defense of Big Words

I LIKE big words. Words were put on this earth to help us communicate effectively. They allow us to make pictures in our heads which carry meaning and feelings. Words help us grasp concepts which might otherwise get obfuscated by misunderstanding.

Too many people nowadays are starting to lose the capacity to communicate effectively. They are lost in a maze of one-letter words they text from a hand-held device. Those words generally convey very little. We are the generation of the Twitter and the text. Gone is the poetry and the sense of wonder; gone the pithy description. Gone too, is our memory.

Sad, that. We lose the capacity to see a vision in our mind's eye simply from reading the written word. Now it must be spelled out for us in a 3-D movie. Now our children entertain themselves for hours shooting little figures with big cartoon guns instead of romping in the fields of the written word. Our husbands can hardly write sentiments in our birthday cards. Thank goodness for Hallmark.

Bring me words such as pyroclastic, insensate, ambulatory, lapsus, proprioception, and glaucous. Shower me with extravagant fireworks of episememes and dispersoids and primogenitors. Confront me with gyrofrequencies and attenuators. I want to be indefatigable in the quest for knowledge and a champion of those poor, foundering words. I shall endeavor to indemnify those souls I can reach, against the loss of words such as obvolute, laconic, and pallor, rout and spicate, swathe and philately and ineradicable.

Power to the word and words have power, I say.


  1. Yes! I read an article the other day suggesting that the Twitterization of our culture is changing people's brains and shortening attention spans. I agree with your love for big words, in spite of the fact that I wrote One Letter Words: A Dictionary(!)

  2. I so want to read that dictionary! I'm guessing it would take about five minutes?
    Where was this book when I was playing Scrabbly?

  3. I compiled about 1,000 one-letter words for my dictionary, but a speed reader might be able to get through the book in five minutes. ;-) My dictionary is going for pennies on Amazon.com right now, which perhaps seems fair: small words, small coins.

  4. Awesome post! Thank you. Now I'm going to grab my dictionary and check out one or two new words.

  5. I appreciate this post a lot - I'm tired of feeling like I have to dumb down my vocabulary to fit in.

  6. As Jonathan Swift put it way back in 1710, "we are already overloaded with monosyllables, which are the disgrace of our language."

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