The Elitism of Vocabulary


I have been friends with someone since high school named Dustin.  He was ever the person who felt the need to learn new words just to show off his extensive vocabulary.  This alone led to numerous fights between the two of us because Dustin liked to compose songs using these words.

I distinctly remember our first argument about a word.  I politely informed him that the word jaded had no place in a song because the rhythm of it would be off and most people didn’t know what in the heck it meant.  A few years later Aerosmith put out a song called… “Jaded”.  Obviously I lost that battle.  Damn it.

However, there have been numerous other words to come from his mouth that he thought would be great in songs.  I would hear these words come from him, then sit and stare at him like multiple alien heads popped forth from his stomach, and all of them were shouting “colloquial” at me.  Seriously?  Colloquial in a love song?

Fast forward several years and here I am on Xanga.  I start noticing that there are several people blogging on Xanga who have such a mouthful of words in every written sentence, that I know I must at the very least guzzle a gallon of coffee, smoke twice, do 60k jumping jacks, and then pray I am awake enough to interpret their vocabulary.  My question is what is the point aside from being a vocabulary elitist?

Let’s be realistic about it people.  Xanga is not full of people who carry a pocket dictionary, and even if it were full of those types, a pocket dictionary would stare back and you and say “Seriously, do you think that damn word is in a pocket sized dictionary?  REALLY?”  I can’t believe that people who write this way would say they are trying to gain a specific audience with their ramblings either given that the number of subscribers they have attained.  Although perhaps the people who subscribed think they can lay their head against the monitor in an attempt at cyber vocabulary osmosis.

I can honestly say here, I am warning you now that if anyone ever said to me “Jill, you should use bigger words on your blog!!!”  I would answer in the words of Captain Barbosa:

I am disinclined to acquiesce your request.  For those who do not carry a pocket dictionary and have failed in life by not watching Pirates of the Caribbean :  It means no.



Author: Jill Stewart

I am a 37 -year-old woman from Arkansas who is happily married to a Scottish immigrant aka “the hubby” “the hubs” or if I am calling him directly “YO YOU!” We’ve been married for 3 years and it’s been a crazy ride, and unfortunately our finances have been beat to death in the last few years. We have two dogs and a cat, no kids. The Blog- What’ll you find: Financial Information as we try to become debt free My attempts at working and trying to maintain a home to the standards I like My adventures in learning how to sew Arts and craft projects Funny tidbits from my life including living with a Scottish person, the dogs, and other oddball things that happen to me. What you won’t find: Much on children. I don’t have kids and I can’t have kids. Recipes- I don’t mind cooking, but unless it’s something really special, don’t come here looking for the weekly recipe! You won’t find it- unless you ask my husband. If you’re interested in what you see, please follow me on Facebook or sign up for emails! Most of all, leave a comment or ask a question! I am always happy to hear from you!

25 thoughts on “The Elitism of Vocabulary

  1. I am in complete agreement. I always thought I was, at least, mildly intelligent. After going through a lot of these weblogs I feel so incompetent. 

  2. I said acquiesce yesterday, and the person I was talking to made fun of me.Also- my pocket dictionary is insulted at your insinuation of inferiority.(although that’s more alliteration than big word usage… dammit)

  3. Ah, but sometimes an unusual word is the best one to paint the word picture. I don’t try to use big words just for the heck of it unless I’m being silly (like Capt. Barbosa). But when describing a large, scary, unkempt, motorcycle barfly neighbor woman who always got giggly and flirty with my husband, the only word that adequately painted the picture was “coquettish.” 

  4. Dustin reminds me of DMV….

  5. @lady_legend – You shouldn’t feel incompetent.  Just stick your head on the monitor while reading it, and all will be well!@adifferentkindofbeautiful – LOL!!!  My pockter dictionary is….in a closet.  *gasp*@saintvi – Sometimes of course a big word is the perfect word and no other will do.  Sometimes though, they are used to make others feel inferior and that part makes me all GRRRRRRRRR.  I know the same words as Dustin, I just choose not to make people who don’t know them look like this when I write or talk: @relaxolgy – They could potentially be writing soulmates.

  6. I’ve always wanted to extend my knowledge of big words, but sometimes I’m just too tired to deal with them.

  7. @relaxolgy – Drak uses more big words in one sentence than most of us do in a day. But he probably does it to make people feel inferior, so that probably doesn’t count.

  8. @adifferentkindofbeautiful – I think he is the king of the vocabulary elitist…ironically, he is not one of the ones I have to prep to read.  I think I just get his humor.

  9. @sortingandforting – lol, you have to “deal” with words?

  10. I don’t think enough about my vocabulary to weed out unusual words from normal ones – if a friend doesn’t know what it means, I explain it and move on. I don’t think it makes them feel inferior, and if they say it makes them feel stupid, I list three ways that they’re superior to me, kind of counter-weights for them. There are so many things aside from vocabulary to take into consideration.I read a lot so I know and utilize large words. My manager doesn’t know many of them, but she’s far superior to me in relating to people and keeping herself in a good mood. If it comes down to vocabulary or people skills, which do you think is more essential? I’d go for the people skills.I haven’t noticed anyone besides Drak who uses ridiculous words in excess. Maybe I don’t get around enough?

  11. @Southernlass – I actually learn a few things from him, occasionally.

  12. @LyraSky – I think it’s just him (in excess, at least, but that makes him different and therefore more interesting).I try to keep my words on here as short as possible; my fingers are lazy!

  13. Well I agree with you basically. There’s almost no point in writing anything with complex words unless you are doing an artistic piece. An essay or poem or story that is supposed to be literary and to effect people through their choice of words in terms of what they sound and feel like more so than what they mean. Some xangans do write entries that are like that. But most don’t. Most people write for general consumption. You also have to take into account that different people just because of their life’s experience write with different levels of vocabulary. And for some it would take significantly more energy to write with smaller easier words than to use the less well know. The words they are using is really how they think. They aren’t trying to be pretentious. They can’t help it. What comes naturally to them is to use certain words that lots of people might not understand. I’m like that. But I’m not bad I don’t think… am I?Luckily we’re all on the internet so… if we don’t understand something it’s trivial to look it up. Hooray for !

  14. @LyraSky – Well, you are obviously a sweet person to list things about the other people that make them better than you in other words in order to keep them positive.  I think it’s a great thing that you do that!@nephyo – Perhaps they look at their postings here as artistic.  That could be a reason for it!

  15. Using big words on us simple pirates is lame. I avoid using them, especially sentences depending on various pretensions–which happens often in philosophy.

  16. @Southernlass – Not exactly, but really big words can be stressful.

  17. @Southernlass – I hate when people think I;’m superior to them, it actually makes me feel inferior. >< Wait, does that mean making myself feel inferior makes me feel superior? How backwards! Heh, kidding, I just try to make us all feel like equals, since that’s what we are.

  18. my lexicon is not very broad but does involve a lot of curse words.who needs a pocket dictionary when you have the world wide web at your fingertips?

  19. Behold the power of “define:AnyWordYouWant” in the Google search bar. That gets me through a lot of blogs. But yeah, using big words just to use them is a bit…odd. 

  20. I agree.  I always try not to use the bigger words.  I know them, but I don’t use them when I blog.  What is the point?  To me, just because I know those words does not mean that I need to show off to people that I know them.  lol

  21. I wish I had a talking pocket dictionary.

  22. @VaultESL – I wonder if you slammed it shut, if it would mumble…that would be hilarious!

  23. I watched all three PotC movies more than 10 times each. Glad to know I haven’t failed in life yet I’m all for simple English in blogs. But big words sprinkled here and there should be no biggie as well.

  24. Why discourage sesquipedalianists?  If they want to use big words, more power to them.

  25. Small people use big words. I was taught that if you speak plainly, no one can ever claim to misunderstand you!

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