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I'm always curious whether using formal words in a casual/everyday speech sounds weird to native speakers. Or maybe the native speakers can notice such uses but don't care at all?

For example, the word discrepancy is a formal word. Imagine that I'm chatting with my very close friends in a cafe about the recent discovery in my work (so it's a casual/everyday environment) and I say "There is some discrepancy between the two accounts (of something) in my company." Would that sound weird?

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    I would call this word "borderline." It feels more technical then formal. Most native speakers with a secondary-school education will understand it, but if they don't read much, they would not utter it themselves. Each word like this must be evaluated uniquely. Sep 25 at 18:04
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    Yes, technical rather than formal. I work in a finance role in my organisation, and, believe me, we talk about discrepancies all the time! Sometimes people informally say 'mismatch', but a lot of our documentation, especially related to audit and anomaly reporting, uses the d-word. Sep 25 at 18:48
  • @MichaelHarvey Curious: is "discrepancy" only used for mismatch between numbers? From the definition in the dictionary, it doesn't have to be, but all the examples seem to suggest "discrepancy" is a mismatch between numbers.
    – yaobin
    Sep 25 at 20:57
  • You could say "There is a discrepancy between the original text and the copy" The copy of the text is supposed to be the same as the original, but it differs and that is a discrepancy.
    – James K
    Sep 25 at 21:08
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    yaobin - we use 'discrepancy' for any 'illogical or surprising lack of compatibility or similarity between two or more facts', e.g. B. Bloggs is listed as working in Birmingham on 21.9.2021 on one database, and Manchester on another, or a job was done by B. Bloggs on one set of records, and J Smith on another, or B Bloggs was listed as doing work of type A on one database, and type B on another. Of course, given our financial overall remit, a lot will be related to figures, e.g. money amounts, account codes (NACs for those in the know!), etc, and all discrepancies have budget implications. Sep 25 at 23:20
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It's not odd to use the right word, and "discrepancy" is the right word. It's not very formal, and if you are part of an accounts department it is probably quite a common word. It is more "technical" than "formal".

It can sound odd to use a highly formal word, when a more casual alternative exists with the same meaning.

So you can usually replace "commence" with start or begin, without changing the meaning, and in casual speech, you usually would. Similarly:

It is necessary for me to depart.

Would be odd, it would sound like you were making a joke by speaking in such language, you could say.

I've got to go.

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  • Yeah, "It is necessary for me to depart" does sound.. odd in casual speech.. Even "I've got to depart" sounds a bit weird to me.
    – yaobin
    Sep 25 at 20:59

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