Monday, August 20, 2007

Vocabulary Rant

I was visiting a forum today on which I'm a semi-regular contributor when I was attacked for using the word "erudite." That was my only offence and, according to the reaction of the poster, it was a grave offence indeed. To which I ask: why? Why should my vocabulary be the source of consternation to someone so wholly unconnected to me?

My last post notwithstanding, I love words. They are both my work and my hobby. I love neologisms, whether they're just for fun (e.g. "dinosaur blog") or put into actual use in the language (e.g. "netiquette"). I love precise words (why say "second last" when you can say "penultimate"?). I love word origins (did you know that Shakespeare coined over 1700 words currently in use in the English language?). I love colloquialisms, especially context-dependent ones such as "Macgyverism" or "grassy-knollism." I love creative spellings that horrify many linguists (such as "grrls" and "boyz"). Sometimes I love to write as formally as someone from a Jane Austen novel. At other times I like playing fast and loose with my dangling participles, indulging in run-on sentences and starting my sentences with such no-no words as "and" and "but." Why any of this should offend someone else is incomprehensible to me.

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If I had a friend whose big hobby was... let's say football, a sport which I know very little about except that the big trophy in Canada is the Grey Cup... I think. If my friend spoke about football using proper football terminology, I would probably have little idea of what was being said. But I would not assume that my friend was (a) trying to flaunt their knowledge and/or (b) trying to belittle me for lack of same. I would simply acknowledge that this was a subject that they were passionate and knowledgeable about but was of little interest to me.

So why do people react so differently when that hobby is language? Why do some people take it so personally? I like my vocabulary. I like to expand my vocabulary. I like to use it or not use it as I choose. And those choices have nothing to do with anyone else. I just like words, dammit. And to those individuals who have a chip on their shoulder about that, I say get over it already.

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1 part shy intellectual, 1 part edgy chick, 1 part sophisticated woman, 1 part mental patient (after all, sanity is a type of conformity)... what's your mix?