Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Ten dollar words

I admit, I have a bit of a weakness for using more obscure words, though I try to use them primarily when they are more precise and get at something specific not captured by the more generic, standard words.  Nonetheless, I normally use them more in writing rather than in speech, at least in part due to the fear that I might be showing off.  I do find this definition of ten dollar words from the Urban Dictionary to be a bit droll yet with the ring of truth: "Using large, difficult words that most people will not understand. Makes you look like an elitist prick that wants to flaunt your advanced intelligence or vocabulary."

Anyway, I mentioned that in my post about the differences between the ACT and the SAT that the SAT used to rely much more heavily on knowing obscure words as part of its English section, whereas the ACT had a different focus, more on knowing and applying the rules of grammar appropriately.  I believe the SAT has cut back on the fancy vocabulary words, but they were very much a part of the test in the 1980s (and I have decided that the best way to stick a few of these words in the dialogue of The Study Group is to have most of the kids be prepping for both tests).

I was actually going to use "glissade" in the play, which is both a verb and a noun, and which means to slide down a mountain or a ballet dance step.  However, I ultimately found the dialogue far too contrived even for me, and I dropped it.  (I shouldn't have to define "contrived" should I?)

There are ten dollar words that still trip me up from time to time, including one that I thought had the exact opposite meaning than it had.  It is right on the tip of my tongue, but I can't recall it right now.  Maybe later.

I'm still learning new words, obviously mostly from reading.  In Yellowknife, one of the characters is described as "gravid," which means pregnant, both as literally pregnant (with child) but also heavy as in "pregnant with meaning."

I only recently looked up "contumely" (I believe it was used in Edgar Mittelholzer's A Morning at the Office and then I also came across it in David Foster Wallace's The Pale King -- in both cases, they are probably doing a bit of a meta-riff on Hamlet's soliloquy, which is the most high-profile case of its use).  Contumely is actually a noun, not an adverb, and that is probably what throws me each time.  Anyway, it means insolent or insulting language or treatment, like being roughed up for persistently using ten dollar words.

Hamlet also keeps "calumny" in circulation.  This is a fancy term for slander.

Just a few others now before I have to go.

Lachrymose means given to weeping.  The Mock Turtle from Alice in Wonderland is generally described as lachrymose, but Lewis Carroll doesn't himself use the term, at least not in the book.

Scrofulous literally means to be contaminated, specifically by tuberculosis, but is more generally used to mean morally contaminated and/or corrupt.  Many of Shakespeare's villains are scrofulous, perhaps none more than Iago, who has no valid reason to undermine Othello.

Crenulated is to be notched around the border, like a leaf or a coast-line

This is almost the same word as crenelated, which is to have battlements (at the top of a castle), particularly notched battlements.

Convivial is to be fun to be around and generally easy going (i.e "complaisant," which I do use in the dialogue), which is not the case for several of my study group characters, though many of them have internal integrity (and are true to themselves at least).

Sometimes I do wonder if English simply has too many words that basically mean the same thing.  There are almost no shades of meaning or distinctions between convivial, congenial, sociable, affable and amiable as far as I can see.  In any case, it is an entertaining way of passing time to look up some of these words, especially on  Feel free to add your own ten dollar words in the comments!

To end, I will bring up "peregrination," which means to travel from place to place, especially by foot.  While I don't travel between cities on foot too often (though I did cross the Golden Gate Bridge on foot, and I did jog from Evanston into Wilmette once), I certainly have journeyed between many cities and uprooted my family along the way.  Anyway, it's a word that speaks to me.

On a tangential note, I am pleased to announce that the blog has hit 100,000 views since its inception, which is pretty incredible.  Thanks for dropping by!

I have decided that I will round up the most interesting posts (but not the art-themed posts due to copyright issues, alas) and compile them into an e-book.  I'll start now and aim to be ready in the summer (around the time that the 10th Canadian challenge wraps up).  It will be mostly focused on book reviews and the theatre reviews that go a bit deeper into the text of the play (rather than the acting, which only lives on in memory).

Naturally, I am thinking of titling my book Peregrinations, which is fairly close to "So Going Around Cities," which Ted Berrigan already used.  More details to come.

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