A Word by Any Other Name


I recently came across a Globe and Mail article, which was somewhat interesting, but as I began to read it, I was stunned by the number of words the author used, which were foreign to me. Here is a list of the words: Putatively, Specious, Reciprocity, Antipode, Alacrity, Ubiquity, Continuum, Intuited, Symbiosis, Prescience, Comity, Effacement, Empyrean, Bowdlerize, Equanimity and Incipient. The entire article was only 1,500 words, but boy, was I impressed with the author’s command of the English language… at least, I think it was English.


I write a minimum of six columns a month, which amounts to about 6,000 words, and have been fortunate to have published four novels with 200,000 words in each. My point is, why have I never come across many of the words used in the Globe’s article? More embarrassingly, perhaps I have and because I did not understand them, I erased them from my memory.


English is my second language, so I can use that as an excuse not to be familiar with the likes of the aforementioned terms, but after chatting with a few friends, relief overcame me, when I learned that I was not alone in my ignorance of not knowing the definitions of these words.


I started to ponder the reason for using words like ‘bowdlerize’ instead of ‘censor’ and ‘Empyrean’ instead of ‘heavenly’, and wondered if he was merely doing it as an act of arrogance or superiority. Certainly no one I know, speaks that way on a daily basis. “Hello Tom, I see you are moving with alacrity to rectify the situation.” How would you respond if someone came up to you and said, “I was able to intuit the answer immediately.”


I’m not suggesting many of you do not know these words and their meanings, but what is the point of reading an article in a newspaper where I have to continually turn to the dictionary, just to get through a verse or a story.


Perhaps the author of the article feels as if he is more educated than many of us, and by penning such terms, has a sense of self-importance. Thank goodness I do not feel the need to promote myself for putative progress and do not have to make my comments with specious explanations, as my many years of experience have allotted me certain prescience.


My thanks to Tom Poupore, who shared this article with me in the first place, and who no doubt knows the meaning of many of these words.

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