Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Brobdingnagian lexemes*

There I was, getting happily reacquainted with the frantic and furious Yossarian in Catch 22, when Joseph Heller went and tripped me over a huge big word.
"Infundibuliform". It sat there, fat and smug on the page, taking up half a line with erudite verbosity. Even in context I still couldn't put my finger on exactly what it meant.
"...had it not been for that patriotic Texan with his infundibuliform jowls and his lumpy, rumpleheaded, indestructible smile..."
Ardent readers will nod their heads in quiet understanding when I tell you that I have a system for dealing with random injections of sesquipedalian loquaciousness. If a dictionary is not at hand, I fold over the bottom corner of the page so I can look up said word later.
(By the way it means funnel-shaped. Why didn't he just say so?)
There's a time and a place for big words, but I try to use smart words - that is, words that will ensure your reader knows what you're on about. Doesn't matter if it's plain language, it's whatever's appropriate to move your story forward and take your readers with you.
If you're writing for an audience of intelligentsia whose preference is to engage in the manifestation of prolix exposition, splendid! Use big words.
If you're writing a novel for people who enjoy a great story, use smart words.
I'm pretty sure if my mate Bob the Builder was reading this, he'd have zoned out by the third syllable of the infundi-word. He reckons I'm guilty of magniloquence here in my blog. But I have a word for you Mister: 
"Sesquipedalophobia" - the fear of long words. In more severe cases known as "Hippomonstrosesquippedaliophobia" ;)

* 'big words'

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