See what I did there?
Don’t be presumptuously bombastic.
Do not go irenically into that good night.
I often recall that writing maxim Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do. And mostly I think that's true. But I also think it's okay to use a more "expensive" word even when a cheaper word will do because it does add a little extra something.
I suppose if you not that you're doing it to show-off, then that is bad. And if your writing is filled with expensive words, that is probably bad too.
But a large vocabulary is nothing to be ashamed of either!
BTW, I've found the most effective tool for writing with simpler language is a word limit on social media platforms. Trying to stick with the character limit on Threads forces you to write simply and clearly.
Better blah blah blah, than la-dee- dah then?!
I was labouring under the misapprehension that the opposite was the case.
Those three words at the top of the page prompted a lovely little stack Ramona. Twain and Steinbeck would concur in the strongest possible terms with your thoughts on this particular topic. 👏✍️
The conversation reminds me of John Updike, who has been accused by more than one critic of pretentious writing. Here's a quote I once wrote down from his short story, "The Taste of Metal." "A dark upright shape had appeared in the center of the windshield, and he tried to remove it, but the automobile proved impervious to the steering wheel and instead drew closer, as if magnetized, to a telephone pole that rigidly insisted on its position in the center of the windshield." That could be written, "He lost control and the car skidded directly toward a telephone pole." But which one most vividly captures the disorientation and terror of heading toward disaster without the ability to do anything?
As there are no exact synonyms in English, I think using words that perfectly capture what you wish to convey is absolutely fine, even if readers so have to look it up.
He must have been doing 2 miles an hour to take all that in!😆 I’ve been in a couple of car crashes and everything is just a quick, uncomfortable blur!
Karl Straub-- proudly la-dee-dah since 1966.
A good read and a good laugh Ramona! I am writer who has always had a thesaurus sitting on her desk. Not so much because I am looking for pretentious words, but always because I am looking to switch up the repeated use of words, or looking for a world that rhymes or alliterates, perhaps.
I’ve gotta go with hifalutin and toploftiness as the winners in the great snob descriptors! Thanks for all these new words Ramona, it’s always enlightening hanging out here!
I admit, sometimes I purposely refer to thesaurus.com to find "more expensive" words than I can come up with on my own.
Then there are the times when the perfect word doesn't exist so I make up my own.
Backitive is one of my fave words to throw around once in a while. Context: "She had the backitive to prove it."
My dad used to say that someone who was pretentious was trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Now, I’m thinking he should have used the word pig instead of sow. 🤪
There is a fine line—or, at least, a line—between using a word that is appropriate and using a word that is unnecessarily… well, pretentious. While I would never say “eschew obfuscation,” I will use words that make no apology for their existence in my vocabulary.
Recently one of my novels was reviewed by someone who stumbled over the word “antithetical.” In the text, the speaker was a highly-educated and very intelligent young man. He was not being pretentious. He was being himself.
While I agree with you in principle, if toploftiness (wonderful word, by the way; I might use it in my current novel) is not my intention, should I dumb down my writing to ensure the comfort of those whose vocabularies are more standard than learned? I think not. <wink>
I use dictionaries all the time not just because English isn't my native language - I use the Greek ones more often - I just can't resist them.
John Banville said in a Guardian interview last year: "The English language is beautiful. It’s immensely rich and untidy with so many influences from other cultures, and I glory in it. People say to me that they have to go to the dictionary. Is that a great trouble? The dictionary is one of the most precious things you have in your house. You should be thanking me for the excuse to go to it. I say to them: “I bet when you went to look up whatever word, you came across four or five new ones. So you gained! I did you a favour!”
There are some synonyms from the list I could use but I wouldn't call him pretentious.
One syllable words - that's going to be quite a challenge. Is a whole post possible? I wonder...