Strong Vocabulary; Weak Communicator


It often annoys me to hear people use big words that I don’t know. I know, I know… not to self-deprecate or anything, and certainly not to sound arrogant; I just have issues with people who choose to or habitually use larger words than commonly known.

I have a fairly descent vocabulary, myself; a rather large one in fact. But most of the vocabulary I know is in terms of my ability to understand. I understand the words I read. I’m less inclined to understand the words I hear, though. Further, I write with a much higher vocabulary than I speak. I’m pretty sure that most people are like me in this regard. If you’ve read any of my articles online, you would know the depth of the vocabulary I use. And that is just what I use, not what I understand in written or spoken form.

 I’m fairly descent at etymology and extrapolating meaning from context as well.

Like I already said, I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but I firmly believe through experience and my confidence in my education that my vocabulary is much higher than those in my age bracket, and certainly higher than those I converse with regularly. I rarely hear a word spoken to me that I cant figure out.

That is frustrating for me… not just because I’m prideful and insulted by the fact that I don’t know a word… but because I am forced to question the mentalities of those who use such outrageously large words.

People that use vocabularies that “high” cant possibly expect the average Joe to understand.

Don’t get me wrong, advanced words have their place – like in the scientific and technical communities – but again, that is the professional world, not the informal, interpersonal world.

When people use large words that I don’t understand I wonder to myself,

  • “Is this person testing my vocabulary? My intellect?”
  • “Is this person testing my pride and seeing if I will ask what the word means?”
  • “Are they trying to sound smarter than they are?”
  • “Does this person actually not think anything of it?”

Either the persons motives are poor, or they are very over-confident in other peoples vocabularies. Certainly, people smart enough to use such extravagant vocabularies casually are also smart enough to have recognized by now that no one understands them. Hasn’t personal experience on their part proven, by now, that such words are not commonly known?

Either they constantly define words for people and are dumb enough not to pick up on the pattern; or people respond to them in ways someone who understood wouldn’t, and thus they are dumb enough not to pick up on that.

My point is simple. Its one thing to understand words. Its yet another to use them. Being able to understand others and texts is marvelous. Not being understood is not.

Language is only as good as your ability to communicate. That is the purpose of language.

If you cant be understood because you have poor grammar and sentence structure and a miserable vocabulary or miserable spelling… how is that any worse than not being understood because your vocabulary and sentence structure are so complex? Either you are incredibly inept at communication because your intelligence is so low, or you are incredibly inept at communication because your intelligence is so high. Whether you are the dumb one or everyone else is, the consequence is the same, and youre inability to recognize that says more about your own intelligence than it does anyone elses.

What is the point of using words that stand little chance of being understood by a layman? Are you trying to appeal to just a select few of society? Are you trying to sway opinion by shinning yourself up with vocabulary instead of rhetoric?

I firmly believe that being able to dumb yourself down is a virtue, a quality. Not to insult the layman, of course, not to patronize, but if I have any intent of socializing and befriending any random Joe in society, I best be able to communicate without belittling them. I don’t want a vocabulary that I use habitually and that no one knows.

If I had to convey a single idea, I would rather convince many with two-pages worth of baby-talk than a select few with a mere sentence.  Being redundance and colorful helps to brighten up precisely what meaning I intend.

This approach to people is one I commonly employ, as you can see with some of my blog entries. It only has two disadvantages, though:

  • Those smart enough to be convinced by a few advanced sentences usually question my intellect in the first place for using such poor vocabulary. I tend to be ignored by those who are overconfident in their vocabulary/intellect and of those they associate with, assuming that those who convey their ideas with so much writing are also people whose ideas aren’t worth hearing.
  • Conversely, those who need the two-pages of baby-talk usually have such poor vocabularies because they are so unwell read in the first place. People like this tend not to want to read two pages of anything, except maybe a picture-book. Extra care must be taken to draw attention and interest people who bore easily with reading.

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2 Responses to “Strong Vocabulary; Weak Communicator”

  1. Existential Poet Says:

    Hello, Cogito,
    You made me think. So now I am. 🙂 Just kidding. Anyway, your comments about my use of the word “playa” in my haiku made me rethink it. It’s a rather common word here where I live, but of course what we post here on the internet goes all over the place.

    I decided to rewrite the haiku. It’s not the first time, and doesn’t make that much difference to me. I’m trying to communicate with people. I’m not a professor – not trying to teach people new words. I love words, big and small. If I see one I don’t know, I often look it up.

    I have written other haiku with the word playa however. Usually I used the word “lake” after it. That is somewhat redundant since a playa is a type of lake. But it helps people understand.

    Anyway, just wanted to reply, since you brought it up. It never hurts to think about why I write the way I do. I am not writing to annoy people.

    • CogitoErgoCogitoSum Says:

      Hello. I didnt mean to come across as hateful, if I did. I have a tendency to sound unusually… confrontational. Its a gift, what can I say?

      I like that you responded on an appropriately related blog post.


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