Using big words
The limnery goes on and on. I’m going to spare you links to the previous posts over the minor uproar that the appearance of limn in a Sun headline provoked, but I do want to point you to an article in The Boston Globe by the always-perceptive Erin McKean.
Her point, and it is well taken, that there is such a pervasive cultural phenomenon of equating extensive vocabularies with intelligence that some readers who encounter unfamiliar words immediately get defensive, as if the unfamiliar word is an accusation that they are not very smart.
Since I am not trained in psychology or psychiatry, their problems are not my problem.
But Ms. McKean touches a little uncomfortably close to home by pointing out that class of people who like to parade their learning: “[t]here’s no denying an element of showoffishness is present in many uses of rare words. It would be peculiar if the all-too-human desire for status — the motivation behind name-dropping, wearing luxury brands, listening to obscure bands, or checking in to velvet-rope places on Foursquare — didn’t manifest itself in word choice, as well.”
Fair point. But still …
Of wealth I am bereft. Of physical beauty I had no particular surplus even when young. Of fame I enjoy a certain dim glow among copy editors—a status not unlike that of a scapegrace younger son of a noble family who has been granted a minor military commission and dispatched to one of the fever islands of the Caribbean. What I have to display to the world is a word hoard built up over half a century of omnivorous reading. That’s all I’ve got, and I am of one mind with Max Bialystock: “If ya got it, baby, flaunt it!”