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.
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.