2018-03-07 / Editorials

Love of words

Other Voices
Mitch Clarke

Do you know what someone who loves words is called? A wordie. Honestly. I know this because “wordie” is one of the 850 new words that Merriam- Webster, the folks that put the dictionary together, have added to the book this year.

I love words. Having a word that described my love affair with words is exciting. Or “exhilarating,” “rousing,” or “stimulating.”

There’s another word among the list that also describes me. It’s “glamping.” That’s a cross between “glamorous” and “camping,” a way to describe people who enjoy the great outdoors, but with indoor plumbing. This is certainly me, because my idea of roughing it is staying at a Marriott where they don’t put those little mints on my pillow.

The folks at Mirriam- Webster say they don’t just pull new words out of thin air. The process involves editors looking for new ways people communicate, searching for ways new words are consistently across industries. The new words aren’t just “a trendy flash in the pan that comes and goes.”

So now, we can all now use the term “dumpster fire” without fear of being looked at like a millennial slacker. Of course, “dumpster fire” doesn’t refer to a large trash container that is, you know, on fire. According to the dictionary, it’s a “an utterly calamitous or mismanaged situation or occurrence.” You know, much like the current political situation in Washington.

“Welp” was also added. Welp, the dictionary says, is an interjection used “to introduce a remark expressing resignation or disappointment.” Like this morning, when I arrived at work in a driving rainstorm, only to remember my umbrella was at home so I had to make a mad dash for the door. Honestly, “welp” is just a clean way of saying something a lot of us already use. It starts with an “s” and can’t be printed in the paper.

But I wonder sometimes about all these new words. After a while, the dictionary becomes like your basement, full of stuff you never use because you keep buying new stuff.

The Webster's New World Dictionary that sits on my desk has some 160,000 entries over 1,716 pages. Yet the average person only knows about 15,000 words. A highly educated person may only know about 40,000 words. And only about 2,000 words are needed for our daily use.

Even if I were egotistical enough to consider myself a highly educated person with a vocabulary of 40,000 words, that would mean there are 120,000 words in my dictionary that I don't know. Suddenly, I don't feel so smart.

So maybe we need to clean out the dictionary. I'm sure there are words there we don't need anymore.

I'd get rid of the word “ecru” immediately. Ecru is just a high-faluting way of saying “beige,” and beige ain't no high-faluting color. So ecru goes.

We could also get rid of all the $5 words people use to sound superior to the people to whom they are speaking.

I knew a man once at my previous job. He was extremely bright. But he purposely used long, complicated words when simpler words might have made him more understandable.

He would say things like this, “Let your extemporaneous communications possess a clarified conciseness without theoretical bombast,” when all he really meant was, “Talk in plain English.”

Some might call a person like that, given to the use of long words, a “sesquipedalian.”

The rest of us just called him “pretentious.”

Mitch Clarke, a native of Blakely, is the editor of AccessWDUN. com in Gainesville. He can be contacted at mitch.clarke @gmail.com. Read previous columns at www.accesswdun.com/ blog/mitch.

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