1

Where there's an alternative, are they (ie euphuisms) still necessary? When? I referenced this. I'm not asking about technical terms (ie polysemy), because they inherit accuracy that would otherwise be lost. A colleague maintains that this 'elevation of diction' evidences learnedness and 'erudition'. Really?

For examples, are there any valid reasons to prefer or need:

  1. 'brook' or 'countenance' over "endure"?
  2. comport + with > agree, accord + with?
  3. conduce' over 'aid' ?
  4. desideratum > (pre)requisite
  5. disquisition > discourse
  6. expostulate > rebuke ?
  7. importune > harrass or solicit (in a lewd sense)
  8. obnuilate > cloud, obscure
  9. otiose > 'impractical', 'useless' ?
  10. pellucid' over 'lucid' ?
  11. pretermit > omit or abandon (whichever is relevant).
  12. recrudesce > recur
  13. vituperative > bitter/abusive
  • 2
    Not all of the left side words are alike. You can forget most of them exist, but you should definitely know words like comport. – snailcar Aug 22 '14 at 5:46
  • Sorted by frequency, most to least: countenance, brook, comport, disquisition, vituperative, importune, conduce, pellucid, expostulate, desideratum. (The rest were too rare to make the cut.) – snailcar Aug 22 '14 at 5:51
3

A lot of those words strike me as inkhorn terms.

As wikipedia succinctly postulates (emphasis mine):

An inkhorn term is any foreign borrowing (or a word created from existing word roots by an English speaker) into English deemed to be unnecessary or overly pretentious.

Of course, everything rides on register and context. There will, no doubt, be situations in which the use of these and similar expressions will reflect positively on the person employing them. I fear, however, that these situations are probably extremely rare, especially when you want to employ many of these eloquent utterances. I remember dusky evenings in student clubs, where alcohol accompanied this kind of wordsmith-jousting...

But really, in most everyday situations, even in academia, most, if not all, of these words will probably evoke an impression of pedantry rather than eloquence in your audience.

3

Even I would need to look up most of your left-hand examples, just to confirm that their meanings match your right-hand examples. Thus, the two best reasons for using most of the left-hand examples are:

  • To impress people with one's high-falutin' language. Or in other words, to sound like an egg-head who should not be taken seriously. (George Will is one of the few people to do this on purpose.)
  • Double-talk. If the reader (or listener) doesn't know what the word means, but is too embarrassed to look it up (or ask), you might be able to get them to sign off on something they do not understand. MAD magazine once had an article on this theme, with honest compliments that the speaker would be certain the audience would interpret negatively. For example, a politician might say his (female) opponent is a well-known thespian. The audience would likely interpret this as "well-known lesbian", not "well-known actress". If the likely-to-be-misunderstood term is part of a contested contract that was signed without the benefit of legal advice, an American judge might throw out the relevant clause from the contract.

On the other hand, some of the left-hand examples are more commonly used than the corresponding right-hand examples, and/or have different meanings. For example:

  • "He brooked no argument" is a common saying. It is much more common than "He endured no argument". It means about the same thing as "He did not put up with any back-talk". "He brooked no argument" is appropriate in semi-formal and formal contexts, whereas "putting up with" and "back-talk" are slang.
  • "comport with" is fairly common in legal contexts.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.