Friday, April 18, 2008

I HATE! When People Use Words They Don't Know the Meaning Of

Teenage girl #1: What did he say?
Teenage girl #2: He just texted me back "touché". Everyone always says that, what does that mean anyway?
Teenage girl #1: Ummm...I think it's like "true that!"

--Nail Salon, Park Slope

The above excerpt from my very favorite website,, as used as my dear friend Julie's AIM away message yesterday, reminded me of something I hate (surprise!): people who use words they don't know the meaning of or people who use words in the wrong context. I am certainly not saying that I have never done this before - as small child (I was, in fact, a small child once), I had an expansive vocabulary, but hardly ever used any of the big words I knew in the right context. Pertinent was one of my faves - you can imagine how many ways I found to butcher that one.

My point is that if you're a grown adult, and you don't know the meaning of a word, don't use it while speaking. If you use it in the wrong context, you will sounds like an idiot. Make no mistake about that. I can't even tell you how many times I've heard people use words at inappropriate times and you know that they're only using them in the first place because they think the use of large vocabulary words will make them sound more intelligent. Wrong!

One of the first things I learned in journalism school was that the general population doesn't understand big words and using them in news pieces and articles only confuses viewers / readers. This rule of thumb applies to everyone. You can get your point across effectively using simple vocabulary and if you do this, chances are you won't misuse a word and sound like a complete idiot. And we all know that when you sound like an idiot, no one will take you seriously. Case in point: both my high school and my college were filled to the brim with folks who used big words to fill in where their actual thoughts left off. Classes were filled with students' long-winded comments littered with many mentions of words like erroneously, posthumously, antithesis, and eradicate.

Additionally, using overly complicated and long-winded words when unnecessary makes you sounds pretentious. And generally, no one appreciates or wants to listen to a puffed-up, self-promoting asshole. See example below:

Normal Sentence: Thank you for donating to our charity.

Pretentious or Just-Plain-Stupid Asshole Sentence: I would like to express my immense gratitude for your thoughtful and generous beneficence to our charitable organization.

See the difference? If you want to use complicated words, write a research paper or submit to a literary journal, but don't use that pompous vocabulary in every day conversation, especially if you secretly have no idea what the word you're using means. You're going to get your spot blown up.

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