The anfractuosity of it all

“I have never in my life experienced any benefits from having a strong vocabulary,” claims the Friar:

During the school years, polysyllables attracted “donees” for my lunch money but repelled the chicks en masse. When writing for the newspaper, they earned me significant editing. While they were useful in seminary, that’s still a form of academia and is therefore of no value to the real world. In fact, seminary gave me an entirely new realm of vocabulary I can’t use in real life, such as “hypostatic union.” The phrase refers to the Christian understanding of how the divine and human natures of Christ co-relate within one person, but I’m never going to say it in a sermon. Not because other people can’t understand it — but because if I do use it I’ll have to explain it and I’m lazy.

Those of us who did not hear The Calling will look at “hypostatic” and think of something like Discwasher, which is supposed to remove dust, and by inference noise, from phonograph records. (Yes, I have one. Why do you ask?)

The one real thrill of having a passing acquaintance with those ten-dollar words, I think, was that you could watch Firing Line, listen to Buckley spill out unScrabbleable terms like “eleemosynary,” and not roll your eyes.


  1. fillyjonk »

    15 August 2018 · 12:33 pm

    (My dad watched Buckley when I was a kid, and he also watched The McLaughlin Group)

    These days, one of the few thrills I have in life is being able to use one of the big, complex, and having-very-specific-meaning words I know in a blogpost.

    It probably drives away readers. But then again, I was never popular to begin with.

  2. McGehee »

    15 August 2018 · 12:45 pm

    The advantage of encountering a ten-dollar word in print is, if it’s spelled correctly you can look it up. Unfortunately, the odds are on a downtrend.

    The disadvantage is, pronunciation guides these days are more incomprehensible than when I was a kid, so looking it up doesn’t necessarily mean ever being able to use it in conversation.

    Which is for the best, I suppose.

  3. Chuck »

    16 August 2018 · 1:33 pm

    Big words usually signal a sharper mind, which might be a good thing. At the least it’s an indicator.

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