I re-read one of my posts the other night and was surprised to see that the biggest word I used was eight letters long--not counting a few words with endings like "-ing," which would have brought me up to eleven. But that seemed unfair. The average was about five letters. I'm pretty sure that, if I had had the nerve to check, I would have found that I was writing at about a fifth grade level.
Partly because there were a lot of sentences starting with "and" and "but," some imcomplete sentences used for emphasis, and a rather random placement of commas. But also because I didn't find a single word that I might have felt compelled to look up in the dictionary to ensure I was using it right. I probably did look up my biggest word, which was "apparently," but that was for spelling. I have to look that one up every single time.
None of this would bother me too much except that there was a time not too long ago that I was all about the big words. The "hereinbefores" and "thenceforths" and "aforementioneds" of legalese sent my letter count soaring. Not to mention all those other big words that I didn't know how to pronounce, but liked to include in my legal writing for show--always throwing in a few obscure Latin phrases for good measure.
But, alas, it appears that I lost more than a paycheck when I left the legal world behind. I seem to have lost my big words too.
I'm trying to decide if this is a good thing. Am I better off sticking to the basics, or am I losing something in the translation by saying "no contest" instead of "nolo contendere"? Am I making myself clearer by sticking to the little words or am I obnubilating the points I'm trying to make by not using words that are more specific? (And, yes, I did have to look up "obnubilating," but weren't you impressed?)
I remember when I used to tell my kids to "use your words." And I can't help but wonder if I shouldn't start telling myself to "use my big words."
After all, wouldn't an EP be more likely if this post was titled "The Loss of Lexiphanicism" instead of "Losing My Big Words"? Wouldn't I get more views and comments by using the bigger word--even if for no other reason than people wouldn't know what it was about and would drop by thinking it just might be another slam on Romney? Can I ever be a successful writer if I don't send a single person in search of a dictionary?
I read the memoir of Christopher Buckley recently and found myself looking for a dictionary, a history book, or an atlas every other page. Sometimes all three. I couldn't help but be impressed and came away thinking that his classical education at Portsmouth Abbey School might have been just a smidge better than my four years at the local public high school. And that maybe I should try following his lead and work an occassional "vouchsafed" into my posts. Maybe even borrow his "froideur" or "postprandial." After all, what do I have to lose other than the few minutes it will take me to look them up again.
Although, I guess I might lose some of those readers from my old high school.
It's a conundrum. (Whoah! Nine letters! It might all be coming back!) The question is, should I let it or should I fight it?
I'm pulling my hair out trying to decide this one. Or, maybe I should say, falling prey to my trichotillomania.