I am seeing a trend of critiques in the Short Story section throw this phrase around recently, and it has caused me to debate with myself. Now, I bring the debate here: Purple Prose is defined as prose which uses over-the-top (bombastic), flowery (ornate), or otherwise difficult (esoteric) vocabulary to (pretentiously) call attention to itself and consequently break the flow of the piece. Now there are many sides to this debate, but here are the two clearest ones as i see it: 1) The writer of a piece tries to impress us all with his vast vocabulary when simpler words would suffice. This alienates the reader (who, on average, has a vocabulary of about 15,000 words [closer to 25,000 if a college graduate]). This is Purple Prose. OR 2) Is the writer off the hook? And does the burden of blame fall back on the reader, who, in all reality, should have a higher vocabulary, but, due to laziness, lack of reading, and a distaste for expanding his/her knowledge of the English language, cannot understand words some (like myself) might deem as accessible to all. Are we becoming less appreciative of a rich vocabulary, relying solely on the words we already know, refusing to learn new ones, and throwing around the phrase "Purple Prose" when a writer comes along who challenges our vocabulary? In this age of condensed communication, texts, e-mails, and Twitter Tweets, are we getting dumber, using Purple Prose as a shield to hide the fact that we can't understand half of what these writers are writing? I mean, if the average English speaker knows between 15,000 and 20,000 words, and Shakespeare used over 30,000 words in his works, including words he made up, like castigate, suspicious, and accommodation, does that mean that Shakespeare was in fact as Purple as they come? Shakespeare was a low-brow humor kind of guy. I don't think he would appreciate us telling him that he is "trying to sound smarter than he is by using big words." You know what I do when I don't know what a word means? I look it up. Viva La Dictionary!