Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Garrulous Crap

I used the word ‘inculcate’ in polite conversation yesterday.

I used it properly.

It made my co-worker’s eyes roll baaaaack in his head.

He recovered quickly, fortunately for me, but it got me thinking about how I use words and in what context and the fact that some people never read ‘It Pays to Enrich Your Word Power’ with their moms every time the new Readers Digest came in the mail.

My mom and I would do it every month, time each other by the kitchen clock's second hand, and record our scores. We usually tied (okay, sometimes she beat me, I’m being a total smart-ass). Afterward we’d go over the answers and point out those that could have, perhaps, been the answer if interpreted differently. I’d look up some of the more interesting words and confirm etymology, use them in sentences, say them in dramatic actor-style to my younger siblings that night at dinner.

Okay, yep, I was a word geek. Guilty. Fuck, I really was a geek, huh?

Sometimes I catch myself using words that are beyond the “can” of the person I’m talking to. Not that I’m doing it consciously! Really! Sometimes the perfect word is just longer and more unusual. “Obfuscate” just says so much more than “really really confuse or maybe lie or trick you”. Similarly, “verbose” just cuts such a different swath than, say, “wordy”. Even though I can understand the confusion this puts my listener in, I can't stop using those words. They just fall out of my mouth, barely making it past the thesaurus in my brain, and it specifically identifies MY meaning.


There are instances where I do dumb down. Necessity being what it is.

1) The Production Guys at work. They’re really nice, a little flirty, a lot bold, hard-working men. They’re great teasers, and if I ever say something like, “Boy, those shipments are sure proliferating as we move towards the holidays, huh?”, they would give me all sorts of crap about my high-falutin’ language. And rightly so. The correct thing to say would be something like, “Boy, you guys got a shitload of shipments to do before Christmas! Need a beer or somethin’?” THAT shows solidarity.

2) Children. It’s all age-appropriate. Until kids reach a certain reading/comprehension/intelligence level, they just won’t understand some of the things I try to tell them. Instead of narrating the long, involved, morally-charged subject of reproduction by mentioning seminiferous tubules and fallopian tubes and ovulation, I just use words like, “seeds”, “different”, “growing”. And NO, I haven’t had to have the big involved talks yet with the big words and diagrams and flowcharts. Oh god, not yet. Please. I’m still reeling from the boy-child’s revelation last night that the Tooth-Fairy is really just parents. AAAARGH.

3) When I’m having sex. Oh, come on, you know THAT’S true! That’s a base animal function. Why take the time to spout things like, “I heartily enjoy the sensation of your glans penis gently stroking my vulvar labial folds.” Why not say, “Fuck me!” Why not, I say?

Don’t get me wrong. In this here post thing, I will NOT always use the correct word. I will not talk in grammatically correct sentences. I may pepper my language with more cuss words and sex words and !exclamation points!! than a person should use in proper businesslike writing. But what the hell. That’s a “writer’s style”.

I will presently cease to engage in excessive loquacious language. And I’ll shut up.


At 11:25 AM, Blogger Maine said...

I have to be careful too. I once annoyed my wife's doctor by asking questions using big-people words. I was trying to gather more detail about her upcoming procedure, and the doc stopped me mid-sentence, asking, "Okay, what do you do for a living? Are you a doctor? Insurance agent?"

I was like, "Um... technical writer?"

She said, "Yeah, some of those words you just said to me weren't regular people words. I had to know what kind of person talks like that."


At 12:45 PM, Blogger Julie said...

I have this issue at work, too. For some reason, people have taken to teasing me about the big words. I once used "swimmingly" (as in "the project is going swimmingly") in a status meeting, and it is now the ultimate inside joke.

Regarding sex language, during sex, I'm with you (it's the only time words like "baby" come out of my mouth, too)--but when I'm talking about sex with my sex partner, even if it's kind of sexy, I still fall back on biological/official words. It turns out conversations with phrases like "your genitals are really interesting" just don't go over so well... (And for the record, it was "genitals" that didn't fly, not any innuendo around "interesting.")

At 3:57 PM, Blogger Orange said...

Ooh, baby, bring on the big words. I have a special place in my heart for bloggers who have a robust vocabulary and aren't afraid to show it. Facility with obscure words is one of the things I enjoy about the crossword-puzzle crowd. You can use the most arcane word imaginable, and these people will either know it, look it up for themselves, ask you about it and appreciate the info, or provide lengthy background information about the etymology from the OED.

I have a cousin in her early 20s who called off her late-July wedding at the beginning of this month. One of the qualms may have have been that she didn't have to dumb down her vocabulary for the guys at work, but she did have to for her fiancé. Can you imagine not getting to use the best words at home?

At 4:19 PM, Blogger jo(e) said...

There is just no other verb that can replace the word fuck.

It is just so direct.

At 10:37 PM, Anonymous Rob said...

You girls all sound like cunning linguists -- and you know how that turns us guys on! ;-)

At 11:39 PM, Blogger Pisser said...

There is like, a 15 year-old who reads my blog. She uses words that make my eyes roll waaaaay back in my head, and reminds me of me before I killed my brain with alkyhol ;)

Or maybe that's a picture of her daughter in the profile. I'm hoping for the latter.

P.S. I feel dirty.

At 12:35 AM, Blogger Orange said...

Word of the week: petrichor (PET-ri-kor), meaning that smell in the air when the rain starts falling on the parched ground [from the Greek petro for rock and ichor for, like, a substance that flows in the bodies of the gods or something]

At 9:40 AM, Blogger Lisa said...

yeah...vocabulary is so delicious...I gotta remember to use mine more...bleh, nevermind...

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Mona Buonanotte said...

Maine: "regular people words"...yah, that cracks me up! Albeit in a sad way. Is our society really doomed to language cut to a 5th grade education?

Julie: I SOOOO want to ask what was 'interesting'! Tattoos? Size? Shape?

Orange: Good for your cousin! You should never marry someone that you can't have a decent, intelligent conversation with. Ooh! And I've always wondered if there was a word for 'that smell'...I will use 'petrichor' in a sentence at least five times today...petrichor...petrichor....

jo(e): It's one of my favorite words. You're right, there's nothing else that says so much with 4 letters. Also it's so much fun to pair with other words for greater detail and color.

Rob: Heh heh...! Yeah, we're really good with our native tongue!

Pisser: Uh, I sometimes say *bitchin'* and then wonder if I'm now a 16-year old surfer 1976....

Lisa: I love the language you use in your sexy stories...THAT'S talent, gurlfren!

At 7:22 PM, Blogger Avatar said...

Orange: I freakin' HATE that smell. Like hot, stale urine being rehydrated by bongwater.

At 9:05 PM, Blogger Pisser said...

I dig it, in the desert. Smells all sage-y...

But not in L.A., where it just smells like reconstituted dog turds.


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