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My notes to a student about her essay

"You raise a good point about using 'more difficult words,' but I'd like you to think in terms of using words with more than two syllables instead of choosing arcane words that you think coruscate. Are you doing this in an effort to portray yourself as a bel esprit? Sometimes your more acerebral readers might mistake your grandiloquent vocabulary for haplography, resulting in their aprosexia, especially if the essay contains battology or becomes more ingravescent as the essay progresses."


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 4th, 2012 07:56 pm (UTC)
Nov. 4th, 2012 08:30 pm (UTC)
I have a book called The Superior Person's Book of Words, which one of my sisters gave me many years ago. It's an alphabetical list of fancy words accompanied by humorous examples and explanations by the author. When I write like I did in the reply to my student, I have to use the book because none of those words is in my vocabulary.

Nov. 4th, 2012 11:40 pm (UTC)
Ouch. You make a pointedly pointed, pointy point. (and now "point" doesn't even look like a real word)
Nov. 4th, 2012 11:51 pm (UTC)
Well, I had fun writing the comment, and I think the student will have fun reading it—but more to the point, I think she'll find herself picking words more carefully now. And in a perfect world, she'd look up those words, too, so she'd know exactly what I was saying.

And isn't it funny how perfectly normal words appear, for the briefest instant, not to be words at all?
Nov. 5th, 2012 12:50 am (UTC)
At least there's no run-on there....
Nov. 5th, 2012 12:25 pm (UTC)
I had to use a period, the sentence was too long.
Nov. 5th, 2012 02:17 am (UTC)
I concur with everything you said.
Nov. 5th, 2012 12:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Chris. I hope your mom is doing better.
Nov. 5th, 2012 10:59 am (UTC)
Your student may have a disability, as an ADD student and now an adult and the father of an ADD son, pedantic speech is very common in this disability. When I coached youth soccer one of my coaches used to tell me to explain what I wanted the kids to do so he could explain it to them in terms they would understand. I do not have to search for arcane words they pop into my head and out of my mouth in a most pedestrian way. It's not about turning a poetic phrase, it's about how my brain works. They often refer to young ADD children whose speech is developed beyond their years as "Little Professors." Most children of this ilk are very abstract thinkers and can parrot conversations they hear from adults as well as reuse the words appropriately in other contexts. Or she might be trying to impress you with her ability to use a thesaurus. Something to think about.
Nov. 5th, 2012 12:23 pm (UTC)
It is something to think about. Thanks, Nick.

Nov. 7th, 2012 12:37 am (UTC)
Fantastic reply, Pat. I'm sure you enjoyed writing it.

On a side note, this reminds me of Everything Is Illuminated. Have you read it?
Nov. 7th, 2012 01:55 am (UTC)
I haven't read it, Sara. Care to tell me about it?
Nov. 7th, 2012 02:33 am (UTC)
It's a novel about an American Jew who travels to Ukraine in search of the woman who saved his grandfather's life during WWII. It's narrated by Alex, the traveler's translator. Alex speaks a hysterically butchered English, using "big words" or synonyms that don't quite have the right connotation--it's almost like he learned English from a thesaurus. I used excerpts from it with my students for an exercise in diction.

One of my favorite excerpts:

"My grandmother died two years yore of a cancer in her brain, and Grandfather became very melancholy, and also, he says, blind. Father does not believe him, but purchased Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior for him nonetheless, because a Seeing Eye bitch is not only for blind people but for people who pine for the negative of loneliness. (I should not have used “purchased,” because in truth Father did not purchase Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior, but only received her from the home for forgetful dogs. Because of this, she is not a real Seeing Eye bitch, and is also mentally deranged.)"

The book is both touching and funny--I'd recommend it.
Nov. 7th, 2012 03:26 am (UTC)
I want to laugh at the diction, and I want to cry about the content.
Nov. 8th, 2012 12:21 am (UTC)
That's precisely how I'd describe it.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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