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Every morning sends me ‘The word of the day’. The English has one of the greatest number of words and synonyms, being a language that has incorporated words from Latin, French, Scandanavia (thanks, Vikings!), and anywhere the British Empire exploited people. Some folks despise fancy words when small ones will do the job but I delight in a rutilant lexicon.  Why be ‘gray’ when you can be ‘brindled”?  Why complain, when you can vociferate?

The number of words actually being used is diminishing. More and more perfectly good words are going extinct from lack of use. Describing a politician as a sollygoster or as dastardly used to be common. Now they are simply crooks and morons.  The point is more readily grasped but it sounds somewhat dumbed down.  Words I have used all my life are becoming unrecognizable. Patients are often puzzled now when I ask if their medications are efficacious.

I blame technology for the decline in word usage. “Spelling checks” in word processing pressure the typist to write a small easy words. It is more work to go back to edit the proper spelling of a polysyllabic uncommon word.  When I type the word apodictic (meaning incontestable and don’t question me) my laptop tells me ‘it is spelled wrong” – and there is no such word (!) To save time, just write a simple word learned in grade school.  When we wrote things out in longhand we may have had more misspelled fancy words but at least they were used.

The other culprit in the demise of words is texting. Long elegant words are deemed too tedious to type. Worse, grammar and words disappear while texting.  “How r u” and “done come home now” replace actual sentences.

I don’t know about you but I see something sinister in this. Holly-rollers claim civilization is declining due to reprobate living, but I think the loss of a rich vocabulary is more cimmerian.

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March 2012

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