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The Excessive Use of Big Words; An Argument Against Genocide

Today, I had an exchange with someone who used the word ‘malapropisms’ in a sentence. In case you had to Google it like I did, it means using an incorrect, but similar word, which results in the sentence meaning nothing.

Thanks again Grammar Girl.

At first, I was impressed by the use of the word, but then, I wondered if it was really necessary. I mean, the person I was talking to thought that I didn’t even know the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ (based on a typo I made one time, but that I still stubbornly refuse to correct). If they thought that I was so stupid that I wouldn’t know the difference between two very simple words, why they hell would they think I knew a complex word like ‘malapropisms’.

Then I realized, they didn’t care if I knew what it meant. They just wanted to let me know that they knew what it meant. They made a common mistake, much like in a malapropism (now I used it in a sentence too!), they replaced the image of they were trying to convey of an intelligent person, with one of a pompous ass.

What’s the difference? An intelligent person is a person who says intelligent things to enlighten the room. A pompous ass uses big words so everyone will think they are the smartest person in the room.

See, the use of big words, for simply the sake of using the big words, is a history steeped in tradition by the most original pompous asses of all time. Lawyers.

You ever wonder why legal contracts are so stuffed full of complex phrases and unnecessary ‘pompous ass’ words. It’s not to avoid loopholes. Actually, the more legalize that gets added, the more ‘loopholey’ the contract becomes. No, the start of that tradition was a little bit simpler than that.

Now sit back, and let me tell you the story, based on some actual facts, a few outright lies, some stuff that came to me in a dream, and a few things my cousin, who knows a lawyer, told me.


Horace the Loneliest Lawyer

Once upon a time, Horace the Lawyer set up a law practice in a tiny little town in New England. Unfortunately for Horace, it was a happy tiny little town and all the happy townspeople had no need for a lawyer. Horace soon became the loneliest lawyer in the whole world.

One day, Horace saw Eli, the happy baker, trading Bobby, the happy farmer, a loaf of bread for a chicken.

“What is this!” proclaimed Horace haughtily. “A chicken’s life is worth far more than a loaf of bread.”

“That it may be,” Bobby the farmer replied cheerfully, “but all I care for today is a loaf of bread.”

That might have been the end of it, but for the reply of Horace, the still lonely, but shrewd lawyer. “But you could have more!”


“Wondrously more,” Horace responded. “All you need is contracts, a penny a word! I can do them for you; they’ll be the best you’ve ever heard! ”

(If this becomes a Disney musical, at this point in the film, I would like the townspeople to do a song and dance number about contracts)

Soon all the farmers were giving Horace all their pennies. He would spin the loftiest of articles, filled with flowery prose like ‘abatement’ and ‘injunction’ and ‘Habeas Corpus.” The townspeople never understood what they were signing, but they would all agree they should trust Horace, because he frequently told them he was the smartest man in the world. He also had very nice hand writing.

But soon, the happy little town took a dark turn. One of the farmers had a disagreement with one of the bakers about their contract. They took their dispute to Horace, where he advised them to give him all their pennies so he could write up another contract. Soon all the farmers were having disputes and all the contracts were getting rewritten, more words being added, more pennies being spent. When they ran out of pennies, they traded.  They gave him their bread, they gave him their milk. They gave him their chickens and their silkworm silk.

(Note to Disney execs. Here would be a good place for a sadder version of the contract song. Maybe acoustic. I don’t know. Do what you feel.) 

Soon, the townspeople were starving and their houses were filled with inedible contracts. They couldn’t work their farms or make more bread, because they all had carpal tunnel syndrome from signing contracts. All the happy townspeople were now sad, starving townspeople.

They resorted to cannibalism, and began dying or eating their neighbors. Soon, there were fewer, and then one day, there were none.

Horace watched the town through all of this. He watched the town from his mountain of pennies, and bread and chickens and cows. He watched their numbers dwindle and wondered why bad things always happened to him.

Horace was again, the loneliest lawyer in the whole world.

The End


What I’m trying to say is that the use of big words doesn’t make you sound smart. Instead, it makes you a supporter of the genocide of an entire race of people I just made up. In all reality, the use of big words has a time and a place. They can be used in dissertations or high level technical papers. They can be used in an attempt to pick up drunk chicks at the bar. Just remember, much like those shots that you bought to get that chick drunk in the first place, big words should be used in moderation.

36 thoughts on “The Excessive Use of Big Words; An Argument Against Genocide

    • and this blog loves you. Really! I fed it after midnight and it became self aware. I’m actually a little scared of it now.

      Seriously though, thanks. :)

  1. In defense of word-lovers, some words are said because they’re the best word for the job, not because the speaker’s horrifyingly arrogant. I’m sometimes surprised by which words are too ‘big’ for the person I’m speaking to. And I swear, I’m not trying to make anyone feel stupid.

    • tell me about it. I once got called out for using the word ‘limerick’. I didn’t think anything of it, but the guy I said it to was lost.

  2. How antidisestablishmentarianist of you. This is why I like working in academic research. We make words up all the time and then look down our noses when juggles don’t comprehend us. That sort of shit is fun!

    • Thank you. I became very involved in antidisestablishmentarianism after politics at the coal mine I worked at caused subpar working conditions and I developed Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.

  3. Very funny and all too true. I loved the tie in with the lawyers and the legalese. I swear if they had to talk straight they wouldn’t know how to do it. And yes, pompous ass fits very well, both with those wanting to impress with their two dollar words and the lawyers. Though I have to say that it’s also true that vocabulary I don’t necessarily think twice about sometimes doesn’t fly out in public. But then I’m reasonably well read. But you can usually tell when it’s a case of let me use this word to impress you with how smart I am, versus using the word that fits the thought.

  4. It is human nature for people to attempt to show their ‘superiority’ over others. It is hard to decipher intent of others…and this is such a grey area. I would ALWAYS hedge towards ‘people suck.’ ;)

  5. “Grammar Girl” obviously has a bigger dictionary than you, Essa, but you’ll just have to accept it and go on with your life. You’re funnier than her anyway, and I bet you can drink her scrawny ass under the faux wood tables during any happy hour!

    • The best part was the blowhard getting on me for making a simple, incredibly common error, and actually making two obvious spelling errors in their post. Doubt they’ll be back. Their probably off correcting peoples Tweats and Facebook statuses. :).

  6. I think I almost fell off my chair! I could hear the song about contracts in my head, I could see the town folk dancing. Then I saw that little squeak Horace sitting on his mounds of pennies, chickens squawking (cause he horded them and chicken shite filled his house), cows mooing (again cause they were terribly unhappy standing in their own manure), bread molding (mold dancing in the sunlight) …. Horace coughing through the last stanza as he expires on his mound cause we all now all that poison will kill ya.

    Gad I love your mind

    • to be entirely honest, I did start to write a song about contracts. :) However, your descriptions really add something. I think I might use them if this ever gets past those Disney execs.

  7. I’m baaaack. Charming, Essa. Somebody tries to make a point, using whatever words come to mind, and you want to make an issue of “using big words to show off”. Somebody good-naturedly points out a “typo” that’s really a very common word substitution with the semi-literate, and you pull in the “grammar nazi” name-calling. Yes, I do this once in a while, pointing out simple errors, sometimes assuming the Officer Friendly or Typo Monster persona, and people usully take it much better, often correcting the copy immediately. That’s what I do when someone points out an error in one of my own posts. It’s painless. Really. Try it some time.

    Somehow, I thought someone who has written three novels would immediately know what a malapropism is.

  8. Yup, typo: “usully”. You can edit that if you want to, but I can’t. It’s your blog. I do correct typos in comments on my blog, if I like the person.

    • Awesome, you came back. First off, had you just said, ‘hey, you should have said ‘you’re’ here,’ then I would have said thanks, and fixed it. People actually do that all the time and I appreciate it. You didn’t do that. You said this; ‘before trying German, you might wish to learn the difference between “your” and “you’re’.

      Really, twelve seconds on my page, and you already look like a smug douchebag. Well done. Also, smug douchebag, did you forget that you managed 2 obvious spelling errors in a 20 word post? If you’re going to set yourself up as an expert, at least try not to look like a fucking moron in the process. I didn’t set myself up as an expert. This is not a god damn grammar blog, yet you insist on returning no matter how many times I tell you that.

      I can also guara-fucking-tee you that the word malapropism can’t be found in any one of my novels. Why? Because none of my characters are pompous douches.

      • Wow. Last time I try to relate the humor of an error correction to the content of the post… with this blog, anyway.

        Clearly, being “right” is extremely important to you, and there’s nothing to be accomplished here. Seeya.

      • Aside from the health of Bret Michaels, being ‘right’ is the most important thing in the world to me. Do you even read my blog posts, or are you just writing in the comment section at random?

        Also, I would strongly recommend it be the last time you try to use humor, period. Good riddance and ‘don’t let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya’.

  9. Ok, I get it now. That obsession with how obscure “malapropism” is supposed to be finally clicked. I’ve read enough of your posts (long befoe commenting) to know that you’re not the dense clod that you’ve adopted as your persona for our little exchange. I’ve been trolled. Well played.

    Oh, in your Jan. 7th post, sixth paragraph: ” When a used types a search engine phrase…”

      • Very late on this, but I had quite a repartee with Kitchenmudge on her blog. The first comment I made she accused me of trolling. This is typical of certain individuals who can’t accept criticism or a counter to their opinion.

        In actuality, they’re the ones guilty of trolling. There is an interesting article on this in Wikipedia. People who immediately accuse others of trolling when in actuality they are the ones guilty of it. A perfect depiction of Kitchenmudge. I wish everyone could read our repartee on her blog, it was a true demonstration of her self-absorbtion, but she conveniently deleted all of it.

  10. I don’t know whether you read my previous post, but it was posted up above and I want to inform readers about Kitchenmudge’s insanity.

    Very late on this, but I had quite a repartee with Kitchenmudge on her blog. The first comment I made she accused me of trolling. This is typical of certain individuals who can’t accept criticism or a counter to their opinion.

    In actuality, they’re the ones guilty of trolling. There is an interesting article on this in Wikipedia. People who immediately accuse others of trolling when in actuality they are the ones guilty of it. A perfect depiction of Kitchenmudge. I wish everyone could read our repartee on her blog, it was a true demonstration of her self-absorbtion, but she conveniently deleted all of it.

    • I wasn’t really too concerned about it. As far as trollers go, KM was relatively tame compared to some of the comments I get, hence the reason I even allowed them to post here in the first place. In the end, I won the internet and that’s all that really matters to me. :) But thanks for posting, I had a feeling other people have had similar run ins.

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