1. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    sesquipedalian

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by erebh, Mar 9, 2013.

    What do you think when you see a word you don't really know the definition of? Does it annoy you that the author couldn't have said something simplar or are you glad the author expanded your vocab? I'm talking about words you have to look up...
     
  2. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Well, it would depend, I guess.

    If I see a new word and can instantly guess at what it means based on the context around that word, I'm happy and move on. However, if I have to physically put the book down and go fetch a dictionary, then I'm not happy. My creative writing teacher once told us that if there's one thing a reader hates the most, it's being forced out of the world they're in for any reason, and having to pause the experience to go look up a word is one of them.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If it is used correctly, I appreciate the author's use of it. Provided, of course, the author isn't doing it five times per chapter, i.e. showing off or being deliberately obtuse.

    And how do I determine if it is used correctly? By not only examining the definition carefully, but also searching for its use in other literature.

    If I can't find it used elsewhere, I again chalk it up to showing off. If it's THAT obscure, there's no good reason to choose it.
     
  4. Em_Anders
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    Em_Anders Member

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    The beauty of a kindle- I can bookmark the page with the unfamiliar word, and return to it after I've finished the book. I've done this with one author, who makes a habit of using words that are uncommon to everyday English. I don't bother leaving the world within the book just to look up a word until I've finished it. Then I go back and find the book marks, and look the words up. It saves on frustration.

    Basically, if I come across a word I don't immediately know or understand, and the context surrounding it does not hint at its general meaning, I do get annoyed, but not enough to do anything about it until I've finished reading. When I take a break from the book, or have finished it, I will return to the confounding word and look it up. But I will not stop in the middle of the sentence to search the word's meaning. That just generates more frustration.
     
  5. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    It is frustrating when the author seems to do it on purpose, but every once in a while it is no big deal.
     
  6. Emeve
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    Emeve New Member

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    I can't say it bothers me, but the level of obscurity matters. If an author is using it correctly and it fits the writing style of the book by all means. Reading over fancy word used only to be fancy gives me a visual and mental speed bump. My personal writing background is editing for newspaper copy so less is more and simpler is better.
     
  7. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    I love authors that expand my vocabulary, and even ones with idiosyncratic neologisms -- that is, so long as I can decipher them.
     
  8. jwideman
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    jwideman Senior Member

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    I have a large vocabulary from years of reading a wide variety of authors. I haven't been stumped by the use of a word in years. But if I were, I'd be delighted.
     
  9. rodereve
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    rodereve Member

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    My bookmarks are completely white and blank, so when I stumble on a word I don't know, I write it down. I do this with all my books, its a good habit for expanding vocab, but I also write down references I don't know, like mythology etc.
     
  10. MsScribble
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    MsScribble Member

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    It would have to be typical of your prose to not be annoying.
     
  11. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    Found this a long time ago in some writing notes. A message to wordy authors:

    Isagogically, we would announce our roboreous proclivities for linguistic exangulation. Consequently we are desirous of administering a jobation to those psittaceous individuals whose ebullient verbosity manifests itself in a polysyllabillification of monosyllables and in infrugiferous effervescence with a concommitant lack of forcefulness. Across their contributions we discern the ophiomorphous trail of the lexicographer.

    The result is sufficient to precipitate a lachrymal irriguosity of the ophthalmic organs.


    If I don't understand a particular word, that's no reason to automatically lay it at the door of the author. Granted, he could be showing off, or could have used a more generally known word, or, I need to buff up on my vocabularly.

    So why is sesquipedalianism such a long word? :p
     
  12. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    I too need a translation.
     
  13. Sanjuricus
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    Sanjuricus Active Member

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    Swampdogs example is a perfect example of what I would call showing off (taken to extremes obviously) but I'm a big believer in using the correct word to describe something. If that word is long and fairly esoteric then fine, I'll use it in the expectation that the reader can (as mentioned above) either glean meaning from the context, look it up or ignore it.
    Contrastingly. I dislike the use of words such as pedagogue, peripatetic, ecumenical and such like in an organisational context. I just find them so unnecessary!
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that for me... however, if a story/book/article/whatever is riddled with ten-buck words, for no good reason, i would find it annoying and pretentious, even if i knew what they all meant...
     
  15. John Eff
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    John Eff Member

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    Use of obscure words can be infuriatingly pretentious and does nothing for me other than pull me from the story. If I feel the author is using them to show me how good a writer they are it has the exact opposite effect. Challenge me with your story and your thinking, not your ability to regurgitate a thesaurus.
     
  16. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    if you don't know the word - maybe you just need to expand on your vocabulary :)
     
  17. Sanjuricus
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    Sanjuricus Active Member

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    If I ever see the word zenzizenzizenzic used in proper context in a novel my brain may well explode.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zenzizenzizenzic
     
  18. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    offtopic, but that's a super sweet word!!!
     
  19. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    funny how the guy who coined that is Welsh - have you seen their train stations? I'd love someone to set their book in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (pronounced [ˌɬanvairˌpuɬɡwɨ̞ŋˌɡɨ̞ɬɡoˌɡɛrəˌχwərnˌdrobuɬˌɬantɨ̞ˌsiljoˌɡoɡoˈɡoːχ]
     
  20. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    For me it depends on whether or not I'm enjoying the book. If I don't like the book, I'm not willing to look up an obscure word - in fact, an obscure word in a boring book just gives me one more reason to put that book aside and never pick it up again.

    On the other hand, if it's a good book and I'm loving it, then I'll happily look up an obscure or difficult word. I'm a fan of Anthony Burgess, and he used a very large vocabulary, so when I'm reading him I always have a dictionary at hand.
     
  21. Sanjuricus
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    Sanjuricus Active Member

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    perspicacity and verisimilitude are two meaty words I can just never be arsed to look up...don't even know what they actually mean...don't care!!! :) If I see them in a book I'm reading I generally just replace the word with "arse". This is usually sufficient.
     
  22. murasaki_sama
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    murasaki_sama Senior Member

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    Sanju - from the root word, the first one has something to do with perception. The second one I recognize, and I think it has something to do with...accuracy or truthfulness or...factual-ness of a statement.

    I personally like when an author uses a word I do not know. I do not find it pretentious or consider it an attempt to show off. I believe an author should use the most precise word he or she knows when possible, although the author should also try and use common words as much as possible. For example, the word trepidation, one of my favorites, can be used in place of fear/hesitation, but should not be over used. I LOVE learning new words, so when an author uses one I don't know, I am happy about it. It gives me a chance to improve my vocabulary.

    However, if a book is just filled with words that don't fit in with the rest of the narrative style, then I begin to question why the author choose to use them. And if a book is made up of sentences filled with words I do not know (unlikely), I put it down. It is beyond my reading level, which is fine. That doesn't mean the author is being pretentious, just that the author is writing to a different audience. Not every author tries to write the lowest common denominator, after all.

    Also, if anyone is interested, Sesquipadlian means polysyllabic or a long word.

    And Sanju, challenge accepted on the Z word. In fact, I would use it in a short story right this minute. But I'll wait for a good contest before I do.
     
  23. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I couldn't even be arsed trying to pronounce them in my head - if I saw them on the first page of a book in a store, it'd be back on the shelf in no time...
     

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