Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The New Criterion and their Love of Big, Fancy Words--A Love Hate Sort of Thing

Wordle: Untitled

I thought and googled (after reading The New Criterion) : Why does the New Criterion love big fancy words?

If you read or have read enough of this publication, you will note its predilection for using big words especially in its "notes and comments section", which is basically the editorial section to voice its current grievances with culture for an already--how shall I say--heavily voiced journal.

I am not a pedant, but I do like the swift exactness that "long" words often offer the writer.

I am not advocating here that one disregard the general rule of "good writing" that when a short word will do, use it instead of its learned longer sister. But just as sometimes a taller, smarter sister in real life distracts from the plainer shorter sister, I like being able to read and use long, learned words when justifiably applicable.

Now, I wouldn't ever recommend someone write or say: Linda could take no more of her husband's infidelity, so she happily defenestrated him. The use of defenestration here is jarring; just use the verb "to throw" instead.

I notice that The New Criterion enjoys using longer, learned words in its news and comments section. Most of the time I don't notice the word choice as longer and more learned because the writing style and the content and context justifies and reinforces this word choice. But, occasionally I do come across some words where I stop reading in order to figure out what is being said.

I like to think I am a smart reader, so by pointing out that some words give me pause I hope I am not revealing my self as a dunce.

I came across this sentence and paused at a certain word:

"Like every other museum, LA MOCA sedulously removes graffiti from its exterior walls." (From Defacement art - The New Criterion)

Can you guess which word gave me pause? Of course, it's Sedulously; it sounds like legal jargon. The word "diligently " would have worked better here. Even if you immediately grasp the meaning of the word "sedulously"(which I admit I did not and had to look up), diligently connotes a more down-to-earth sensibility which corresponds with the removal of graffiti from exterior walls.

I have had to look up occasional words while reading The New Criterion. But I am not complaining for the most part because this is what I actually want and expect.

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