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Thread: How do you respond to "Stop using such big words!"?

  1. #21
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    i agree with chick. i think you write very eloquently but from my experience the type of words/language i use depends on the audience. i'd never use giant scientific words to, say, 7th graders or even folks on this thread. especially not without some sort of explanation. this is something many people do not get, and as you said, you know what that feels like when someone is speaking over your head.

    language is often used to marginalize or exclude others. this is why l33t speak is so popular as it's a way of communication that excludes those who are not seen as the accepted members of that group, the geeks.

    i once used the phrase 'women's suffrage' and one person said "woa! aren't you fancy and educated? how about you talk to some of us that only have a 4th grade education?"she felt alienated. so from then on i didn't dumb things down for her, as that'd be insulting, but if i used a big word, i'd explain it. and she felt respected that i wasn't making her seem stupid.

    in the case of my 14yr old brother, well he knows better lol. if i use a word he doesn't understand he uses a dictionary that he carries with him or if i call the house, my family knows to have the dictionary right by the phone lol he used to groan but now he just sighs.

    i understand words are important to you, but try to use them to bridge those gaps of understanding, and not exclude. besides, 'irk', is too small of a word to fight over. lol
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  2. #22
    Senior Member Foolish Old's Avatar
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    Some posters are implying a duty on the part of the OP to alter what she presents as her natural and ordinary vocabulary in order to accommodate a rather snarky complaint from someone who objects to the words she uses because they are "too big." I don't even get the impression that it's a complaint regarding comprehension, but rather a critique of style.

    I often hear unfamiliar words during conversations. Sometimes I know the word, but I'm unsure of the speaker's intended meaning. In either case, I just ask. I don't fault the speaker for my lack of comprehension.

    There are times that I feel that a speaker is being pretentious, awkward, or even aggressive in repeatedly choosing to use "big" or "fancy" words in preference to a common word that would do the job perfectly. This is especially irksome when I believe that the speaker is trying to impress me by unprovoked insult to others in the conversation. I don't have any trouble bringing this to their attention. How I do that is guided by what I perceive to be the intent of the speaker and my mood.
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  3. #23
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    I have suscribed to word a day online for years. Many of the words are very obscure, but I still enjoy reading their definition and their origin. Some I may incorporate into my conversation, while some I read and know that I will never use. Language is the greatest gift that human mammals have, and can be either staid or rich with meaning. I would always prefer listening to someone who has nuance and the ability to use language to give meaning to the complexity of human experience.

  4. #24
    Senior Member JimD's Avatar
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    I would immediately assure the offended interlocutor that you will thenceforth stringently eschew any potentially obfuscating verbiage from your lexicon, and restrict your conversation to small words.....like 'irk'.

  5. #25
    I got a lot of that as a teenager, especially from my siblings (one of whom used to loudly and proudly proclaim that she didn't see the point in actually thinking before speaking when not in school).

    At the time, I used to roll my eyes at them. I also wore their frequent comments like badges of honor -- as if those comments gave me license to believe that I was smarter than them.

    In fact, both my brother and my sister are probably smarter than me, and if not, then they've both gotten a lot further in life than I ever dreamed of going, despite not being so smart all the damned time -- or maybe (probably) because of it.

    Communication is key. The people who get things done in life aren't those who know everything about everything, but spend their lives locked into the proverbial ivory tower. They're the ones who know a lot about some things, and can communicate what they know effectively.

    And in this context, communicating effectively doesn't just mean being understood by as many people as possible. It also means speaking in the way that's least likely to irritate (or irk ) your audience. Because those who are too busy rolling their eyes at you won't hear what you have to say, no matter how interesting your message may be.

    In writing this message about clear communication, I've used a lot of big words, like 'effectively', and 'proverbial', and 'context'. I'm fully aware of that; it is the way in which I speak as well as write. And while I know there aren't all that many people in my life who truly do not understand these words, I no longer wear my regular use of them like a badge of honor. I consider it a personality quirk to be improved upon. I think maybe you should, too.

    ETA: You say your words are all you have to clearly define yourself by. Believe it or not, I used to think this was true for me as well. While my physical limitations were never as pronounced as yours are, I did grow up disabled in a family comprised of two professional dancers (my sister and my mom) and a father who would have loved nothing more than to become a professional musician. Being brilliant at what you did -- every hour of every day -- was the norm in my world. The only way I could accomplish that was by talking in a way that may or may not have sounded brilliant to the unsuspecting.

    What I've discovered since is that there are a lot of other ways to acquire an identity, even for those of us who are limited in what we can do to stand out. You don't have to be the smartest person in the room all the time, because yes, that is likely to make a lot of people roll their eyes. So instead, be te kindest person in the room. Be the one who always listens, and who always understands. Be the one who always knows when asked, but never shows off knowledge for the sake of being seen as smart. If you can do that, people will naturally gravitate towards you, and they will respect you for who you are, not chuckle behind your back about your usefulness as a human dictionary.

    Five-word executive summary of all of the above: don't be smart. Be wise.
    Last edited by Saranoya; 09-30-2011 at 12:17 AM. Reason: typos

  6. #26
    I would reply - "OK which is a quintessentially American term that has spread from English to many other languages. Its origin was the subject of scholarly debate for many years until Allen Walker Read showed that OK is based on a joke of sorts. OK is first recorded in 1839 but was probably in circulation before that date. During the 1830s there was a humoristic fashion in Boston newspapers to reduce a phrase to initials and supply an explanation in parentheses. Sometimes the abbreviations were misspelled to add to the humor. OK was used in March 1839 as an abbreviation for all correct, the joke being that neither the O nor the K was correct. Originally spelled with periods, this term outlived most similar abbreviations owing to its use in President Martin Van Buren's 1840 campaign for reelection. Because he was born in Kinderhook, New York, Van Buren was nicknamed Old Kinderhook, and the abbreviation proved eminently suitable for political slogans. That same year, an editorial referring to the receipt of a pin with the slogan O.K. had this comment: "frightful letters ... significant of the birth-place of Martin Van Buren, old Kinderhook, as also the rallying word of the Democracy of the late election, 'all correct' .... Those who wear them should bear in mind that it will require their most strenuous exertions ... to make all things O.K."

  7. #27
    Senior Member Jonny Bell's Avatar
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    Tell him you can't dumb down how you speak because you wouldn't be able to match his colloquial vernacular and hence deal him an injustice.
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