words.


So, I know I'm a wordy person. Polysyllabic. Verbose. Loquacious, one might even say.

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There's a combination of factors involved there. I read a lot. Always have. One of my earliest memories is of my older brother reading picture books to me, classics like "There's A Monster In My Closet" and "Where The Wild Things Are" and "Frog And Toad." I couldn't have been older than three or four. And I remember reading the words on the page faster than he could actually say them, and wishing he would get on with it.

(Although I also remember really enjoying that he would take the time to read with me. Thanks, Dave.)

At my elementary school (Edgemont Eagles, represent... although, why do elementary schools have mascots? it's not like they have any sports teams), there was a long-standing program where fourth grade students were each assigned a first grader and were supposed to tutor them in reading. My fourth grader was Dan, the older brother of my friend Stefanie, and I daresay I was a better reader at age 6 than he was at age 10. He spent Tutoring Time chatting to his friends while I grabbed a stack of books and read quietly in the corner. At the end of each session Dan would gleefully mark off all the books I had read on a large chart in the corner of the room, and proceed to brag about me to his mates. The whole situation still makes me laugh.

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My point in describing these events is to emphasize that I learned to read at a very early age, and have never stopped since then. And you can't read that much without absorbing a great many words, whether you knew them already or learned them from usage and context.

My secondary point in describing these events is to emphasize that I'm pretty obnoxious about the words I use. I wouldn't say I overtly attempt to use the biggest word I can in any given situation... but I will admit to a great deal of pleasure when just the right word emerges from my mouth in the course of a conversation.

So yeah, I know I'm That Guy Who Uses Big/Obscure Words. And I know it's annoying but I can't help myself. Given that fact, something that bugs me more than almost anything is when a word is misused, or overused, or used without really thinking about what is meant by its usage.

I mention this because I have come to find that I absolutely loathe corporate buzzwords and business-speak.

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To this point in my career, I've had precious little exposure to this sort of thing. As a print journalist, I associate with people who are, in large part, like myself: pretentious, condescending wordsmiths who quibble over semantics. (I promise, I harbor no illusions about this side of myself.)

But given recent events at work, I've had to attend business meetings with my new executive overlords. And they are almost insufferable. At our most recent meeting, I tried to count the number of times some form of the word "innovate" was used. I lost count after ten minutes. "Differentiated" was also a favorite. Oh, and "compelling." Ugh. As Inigo Montoya would say, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Maybe this is just a kind of vernacular to which I will have to become accustomed. But I'm not happy about it.

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Don't misunderstand me, though. I don't use big words to try to obfuscate my meaning. I guess I feel like, the more diverse my vocabulary becomes, the more words I have at my disposal, the easier it will be for me to say what I mean, what's on my mind, how I'm feeling. And that's something that's really important to me.

Because the bottom line is, I don't care which words you use. As long as they're yours, and as long as you mean them. And as long as they're the truth.

2 Response to words.

  1. Eliza says:

    And that's why we like you (and also why we envy you)!

  2. Andy says:

    I thought it said "prophylactic" until I reread more closely and saw "polysyllabic."

    Yours is good and all, but I like mine more.