Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I've been lurking on the Star Wars boards of late, and, while the responses to Jedi Twilight are generally quite positive, there is one complaint that crops up repeatedly, both on forums and in private email: Why do I use so many big words?

I find it sad to even have to mention this, but I've gotten enough complaints to wonder about it. A writer's job is communication, after all, and if my vocabulary is getting in the way of that, than maybe I should throttle back the thesaurus a mite.

The thing is, I don't consider my vocabulary to be all that baroque -- I'm just using words I know. I think English is a wonderfully descriptive language, and I enjoy using it. I figure that if they're words I know, then any 5th grader should know 'em. Also, most of the more esoteric meanings can be gleaned from context.

My concern is that if I start censoring myself, then I'll become paranoid and worry about using any polysyllables (like that one). (Should I have used 'gleaned' earlier? And is 'esoteric' too esoteric?)

See what I mean?

What gets me is how indignant they're all sounding. How dare I use a word they're unfamiliar with? I must be doing it to show off. I always thought geeks appreciated not being written down to; that I was writing for sf fans, who were a cut above the mundane.

I guess not.

How disappointing.


Steve Perry said...

Hey, fornicate the products of unmarried liaisons if they cannot appreciate a jocularity -- and the equus upon which they perambulated to this location, as well.

They were asking us that back on Hour 25, remember? Where'd you get all those big words, huh?

Worg said...

Writers also have some responsibility to educate the audience. People would argue that, but I think it's true. Wasn't Shakespeare involved with some group that was trying to beautify and expand the English language?

Think of Gene Wolfe, one of the best sci fi writers ever, for whom words like "fuliginous" are common parlance. "The pelagic argosy strikes land." Unusual words definitely contribute to the beauty and power of his writing.

Megan said...

I just found your blog through Neil Gaiman's (another reason to hate him?), and I want to say thank you for using words I don't know. How else would I ever learn them? I don't have a lot of time to peruse the dictionary, so I appreciate stumbling across new words wherever I may come across them. With a dictionary handy is best. So, thank you, and please ignore the complaints. Those of us who appreciate it probably keep our mouths shut, but we do exist.