|Find out about Obstreperous at Goodreads|
Monday, May 7, 2012
Big, fancy words are like red flags to me. I notice them. I say to myself, “Oh, there’s a big, fancy word.” I like them, in moderation. But one thing you don’t want to do is overuse big words. If you use a big, fancy word once I might be impressed. Use the same word twice, and I’ll wonder why you’re shoving it in my face. Use it a third time, and I’ll know you’re just trying to get your money’s worth out of that dictionary you bought.
Take the word obstreperous. It’s a great word. I had a book called Obstreperous when I was a kid. It was about an obstreperous kite. I enjoyed it because I was quite obstreperous myself. I still enjoy being obstreperous. By now I think I’ve used the word obstreperous often enough that it’s beginning to lose all cohesion. It’s not a word now, it’s a jumble of letters that link together to make a sound that means nothing. Obstreperous, obstreperous, obstreperous. See?
Once upon a time in an entirely hypothetical situation, four people had to go to court and be witnesses. One of them was a police officer, whose idea of good advice to his civilian colleagues (all of whom were very new and very nervous) was to jump sharply to the side after swearing on the Bible, so the thunderbolt missed them. But because the three civilians were utter scaredy cats, the police officer eventually took pity on them and talked to them about what was going to happen inside the big, scary room, what questions might be asked, and the best way to answer them. Collusion? No, not at all, your honour.
So what did happen? Hypothetically. Well, four different people got up on the stand and described the defendant as obstreperous.
Yeah, totally spontaneous and unrehearsed.
Don’t use big words you wouldn’t normally use.
And, if you do, don’t overuse them.
Now I have to phone my mum and see if she still has a copy of Obstreperous.
What fancy words do you like? Or hate? Or find yourself overusing?