AirTalk for December 4, 2013

In praise and defense of grandiose, flowery, sesquipedalian words

Conservative Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell Embroiled In 'Pleb' Row

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What's your favorite fancy word?

It’s a well-known fact that most magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, the so-called “Paper of Record,” is written to a 9th or 10th grade level. This preference for simpler words applies to radio writing as well.

But as Mark Bowden wrote in this month’s Atlantic, there’s a certain undeniable joy in reading and using words that aren’t in everyday currency. Wordsmiths don’t amass a wealth of vocabularies for browbeating, they do it because these impressive words give them a more complex understanding of the world.

What is your favorite fancy word? What has our culture of instantaneous communication done to our diction? When we lose our love for words and language, what else do we lose?


Geoff Nunberg, a linguist and an adjunct professor at the UC Berkeley School of Information

Stephen Dodson, a blogger who runs the Language Hat blog and a copy editor in Massachusetts

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