Wednesday, November 10, 2010

If you eschew quibbleism and think a large vocabulary is locupletative, save some words

The ostentatiously erudite William F. Buckley, Jr. (1925-2008) was known for using English words that few others recognized or understood. Until recently, the writers and editors at Time magazine seemed to take sadistic pleasure in printing words that would require readers to grab their Merriam-Webster or Funk & Wagnalls.

There have been jokes about people who misunderstood words, like the hillbilly father who made his daughter drop out of drama school when he heard that she was required to "matriculate with thespians."

I love words (and obviously use them.)

I've accumulated dozens of books about etymology. Unlike Bill Buckley and Time, I don't choose my words in order to stump my readers, but I do enjoy employing puns, rhymes and alliterations where appropriate. I have no idea how many readers appreciate or even notice my phrases such as ". . . the goal that wins praises, raises and Pulitzer prizes" -- but they make writing more fun.

It's also fun to learn new words and old words. "Zaxes" is great for playing Scrabble, and I recently posted a blog entry about obscure publishing terminology like "kern, "flong" and "dingbat."

Folks who love words should visit It's a site operated by Oxford University Press, publisher of the famed Oxford English Dictionary (OED). It calls attention to words like "rogalian" that have accumulated dust from lack of use and may be banished from the dictionary to make room for newer terms like "sexting."

The site points out that 90% of our communication is achieved with about 7,000 words -- ignoring  perhaps a million others.

Oxford urges you to help preserve the moldy-oldies by "adopting" one or some, and using them in your personal speech and writing. You can even order a T-shirt with some venerable vocabulary on it.

The home page is cute (perhaps too cute) and has words that call out "pick me,"  "hello" or "what about me?"

I just typed "panchymagogue," "squiriferous" and "ten-cent store." I hope it helps.

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