Thursday, June 9, 2011

Dear Ally

Dear Ally,

Why all the big words?  Are you trying to impress us?

Signed, Befuddled

Dear Befuddled,

No, I'm actually showing you respect.  Let me explain.

I like to read.  I enjoy good writing, like the prose regularly appearing in The New Yorker and Harper's Magazine.  When you read good writing, you are exposed to and absorb a wider vocabulary.  Many obscure words have shades of meaning that simpler synonyms lack.  Once more precise words are planted in your mind, they germinate and bloom.  Then, when you think, your mind uses words more accurate and descriptive than simpler ones.  Such words also add color and vibrancy to our exchanges.

I think in words belonging to my personal vocabulary and that sometimes includes uncommon language.  When I communicate, I express my thoughts using the words in my mind.  My goal, at all times, is precision.  I want to communicate lucidly and my word-selection aims at that goal.

Sometimes, of course, I deal with people whom I suspect won't understand certain words because of their probable lack of exposure to that language.  In those instances, I reluctantly replace the words in my mind with simpler terms.  I don't like to do that, but being understood by others is more important than being precise.

When I write on this blog, I give you the unvarnished contents of my thoughts.  I don't dumb it down.  By using my own words, I'm showing you respect -- I'm saying I believe you can grasp the meaning of my words and I want to you see my ideas in their greatest efflorescence.

There's a word for people who think in simple terms and then replace those words with fancier language to impress others -- that word is pretentious.  I hope you never view me as such.


  1. I absolutely agree. I'm afraid I tend to do the same, to the extent that I'm able to in a language that isn't my native language.

  2. I love the way you speak and write and think. Its genuine, open and honest.

    Keep writing the way you. I thoroughly enjoy it.

  3. Thanks, guys.

    Poet, that you write so eloquently in a language foreign to you amazes me. I can barely manage "Ihr Kleid ist hübsch."

  4. Nothing more stimulating that good writing.
    I personaly have no problem with big words, most of them are Latin rooted, so they are very similar in Spanish.
    Always a pleasure to read you, Ally

  5. I enjoy your writing and never considered you to be pretentious. Maybe few times I've had to bust out the dictionary to clarify but for me that kind of learning is enjoyable. Like you, I enjoy to read but different thing so sometimes I haven't been regularly exposed to more complex words. Nothing is wrong with not understanding something. I think people just get defensive when intelligence is questioned.

    Befuddled, if you dont get a something, nothing wrong with asking or using google to clarify. And as you get to know Ally, you'll see that she never intends to be pretentious.

  6. I like writing. I appreciate it more when I do not have to read it over again to get the meaning. It depends on what I am reading ... if it is work of literature then big words are part of it but if it is a piece of news then I'd rather have it straight without many fancy words or even metaphors! I enjoy the topics you chose to write about :)

    ♡ from ©

  7. If I could copy and paste Ashelle's comment, I would, because that's exactly how I feel! Can I, can I? Okay.

    "I enjoy your writing and never considered you to be pretentious. Maybe few times I've had to bust out the dictionary to clarify but for me that kind of learning is enjoyable. Like you, I enjoy to read but different thing so sometimes I haven't been regularly exposed to more complex words. Nothing is wrong with not understanding something. I think people just get defensive when intelligence is questioned. "

    We all have our own ways of communicating. As long as we aren't rude about it, I have no problem with that! One of my coworkers is very precise with his language. He doesn't use "big" words, but he enunciates a lot and everything is very prim and proper. Yes. No. I've never heard a "yeah" or a "yup." He's an English major, so one can expect that kind of thing. I use yeah all the time and make odd analogies. But we both manage to get a long. It's not like we're judging one another. Someone may speak differently than you, but in many cases, they aren't trying to be pretentious about it!

  8. I love this post and wholeheartedly agree. "Many obscure words have shades of meaning that simpler synonyms lack." I majored in English, so I've always appreciated great writing, which often includes "big words" not because they are "big" but because these words allow you to communicate in a more nuanced way. The English language is vast; why limit yourself to a select group of words?

    I once had a professor in college who had a wonderful grasp of the English language, and I just loved hearing him lecture. It wasn't just because of his expansive vocabulary, but it was the way he appropriated words used in everyday vernacular and used them in a slightly new way.

    I definitely don't know all the big words you use on your blog, but I love how your blog challenges me to expand my vocabulary. :)

  9. I long to be pretentious.
    I own my pretension.

    I kid. Seriously, though, I love that you speak to us on a real level. If you use big words in your daily life, then rock it on your blog, as well.
    Twitter: @GlamKitten88

  10. Like several others who have commented, I majored in English in college, and I enjoy being exposed to new words and ways of writing. Your style is great, and a big reason why I enjoy your blog. I can usually tell right away when someone uses certain words to sound superior or pretentious, as you put it, and I never get that vibe from you.

  11. I Love the way you write and I understand it completely!

  12. I think, in general, that bloggers are a fairly literate group. I am not afraid of seeming pretentious once in a while but I do fear the loss of nuance in our language as more complex words (and thoughts?) are abandoned.

  13. So funny to see that Dear Ally question since I've never once thought this about you. And you and pretentious do NOT mix. You are so lovely and down to earth. I believe in never dumbing down as well.


  14. I would never view you as pretentious- you are clearly very intelligent but I love your easy way with language and flare for reading and writing. It's unfortunate that people feel the need to dumb down- when I was in high school I was known as the ditz because even though I was very academically inclined I thought boys liked the 'stupid' girls so I changed my language and even my voice! Now I am proud of who I am (although my vocab is not as good as it once was, I need to get back into reading!) P.S. I love the word germinate- you don't hear it nearly enough!

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  16. This is a very weird post for me... I can't believe that somebody out there can even think of you as being pretentious! You're so lovable and down to earth, and although you have a higher level of education (which is obvious from your job, let alone your writing), I've never felt that you're trying to be the "wise guy" or discriminate in your blog. Why would somebody say that? And what about the big words?? I'm from another country and I still understand all the words you're using (and if I don't, we have dictionaries! And why would that be a problem of you, using fancy words, instead of me not speaking a language properly?). Sometimes, I just don't get people... But thanks for clarifying that!

  17. I can honestly say that I've never thought of you as using "big words." Not that I think you speak twitter language or anything. But big words, or five-dollar words, as my family likes to call them, are what I routinely come across in academic articles. They are pretentious, and while I consider myself to have a better-than-average vocabulary, I need a dictionary for some of them.

    You write articulately, and with an obvious love of the rhythms of the language, that is all. Oh, and like Dimi, I can't believe someone even asked you that! To use text speak (which I can also enjoy) wtf?

  18. I agree with The Closet Shopper and Dimi - it never even struck me that you use "big words." You use real words!

    Do not ever change how you write or express yourself. One of the reasons I keep reading your blog is that you are articulate and well-spoken. I've stopped following blogs because they're too...let's say...simple. Call me pretentious for that, but I love language (published poet, degree in Linguistics) and I abhor the dumbing down of it. Bring on the $5 words, Ally!

  19. Here's pretentious: The person who wrote this be wilin'. I never read a phrase I didn't understand and I don't have more than a HS diploma.

    But seriously - you're correct. The more you read and are exposed to words, the better your vocabulary. Everybody had to look up words the first time. It's nothing to be ashamed of, and when you take the time to research, you remember. Don't change.

  20. I love the way you write. And what you said about reading is so true. I have been an avid reader all of my life. It's not what you read that matters as much as the fact that you do read. It broadens one's world immensely. Having been a terrible student in high school (it bored me), I have reading to thank for where I am today. I write proposals for a living. I'm very good at it and it pays quite well. And it's all because of books.

    On another note, nothing makes me cringe more than people who use big words to try and impress me, but use them inappropriately. I'd respect them so much more if they were just themselves.

  21. The LAST word I'd ever use to describe you is "pretentious." You're one of the most genuine, good-hearted people I know. And it comes across in your writing. You write how you feel/how you speak, and that makes your blog more authentic.

    Words are so beautiful to me. I sometimes find myself wondering if I should use simpler words when I talk or write to people because I wonder if they will think that I think I'm soooo smart. But usually I don't because I can't help myself, and I love the imagery that the right word choice can conjure up. Like you said, you can't always achieve that with smaller words. Keep using the big words, and let's help spread the joy of words. :)

  22. I stumbled across a feature that lets you grade your blogs language by schooling standards I forget what it was called but it was fun to play around with. I was shocked to see some websites were primary school standard! I appreciate the fine use of language and enjoy discovering new words.

  23. Well, I must sat that I enjoy reading all the "big words", English is my second language, so I learn and expand my vocabulary in a fun way.
    What else could I ask for ?