Thursday, February 11, 2016

For the Love of Vocabulary
One of the recommendations of my Clifton StrengthsFinder results was to build my vocabulary. Reading National Review articles turns out to be one way to do that. Today's word was apotheosized a verb which means idolize, or elevate as if to the rank of god. I certainly appreciate that National Review doesn't kowtow to the least common denominator of its readership, but, as one who has, on occasion, been accused of using words that no one understands, I have wondered who is best served when, in the course of communication, words are used that are not understood by one or more parties.

The English teacher in me says that if we never use words that stretch our vocabulary, our vocabulary will not grow and the richness and power of language will ultimately suffer as words fall into disuse. But the pragmatist in me says that if all parties in a particular communication fail to comprehend the message for lack of understanding, the communication itself suffers.

I love the power and beauty of words. I love finding just the perfect word for the situation. It's kind of like finding the perfect accessory when decorating a room. I am concerned that if we fail to build our vocabulary and words fall into disuse, we will lose all of these words that add color and beauty to our language. Our communication will become dull and imprecise. It is important to me, so far as it depends on me, to preserve the subtle nuances of language through vocabulary.

Here is my solution. When writing technical manuals, or anything that could involve safety, use clear, concise language. In all other areas, that adage "know your audience" comes to mind. Since I like to assume the best in people (!), I will assume that the audience of this blog is at least equal to me in terms of vocabulary, or, if not, at least equal to the challenge of looking up a word or two.

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