The Perfect Word

Hubby and I have many conversations (some say arguments) about the perfect word.  We discuss the connotative and denotative meaning of words.  The grandchildren have been known to say,  “Opa, you use such big words.”  Hubby does tend toward the fustian*, but if left to him, the grandchildren will be more than ready for their college entrance exams.

My words tend away from the ostentatious to the common, and I find little need for vulgarity, although I will admit that when I burned my hand recently something vulgar may have passed my lips.  As one who aspires to be a professional communicator, I have no prejudice against certain words.  The words that communicate your message in the way you would like it to be received are good words.

So many people just don’t realized that what others hear, sometimes bears little resemblance to what is meant.  Toss in words few are familiar with, and your listener could lose your meaning.  Before you jump to the erroneous conclusion that am advocating talking down to your listener, rest assured that is not at all the case.

It is as Hubby, once a technical writer, always tells me about writing.  “Write so that you cannot be misunderstood.”  The same is true of speaking.  Build a little redundancy into your communication, so that new words can be understood, rather than out of reach of some listeners understanding.  It just isn’t a perfect word, if you leave your listener (or reader) wondering what the heck you mean.

I agree with T.S. Elliot.  Toss the “complete consort” of words into the salad, combining the old and the new.

* It is interesting to note that upon checking the spelling of the word fustian, and stopping to read the definition, that the word original denoted a course woven cotton or linen, and has come to denote a thick cotton fabric such as corduroy or velveteen.  Nice fabrics, but hardly fustian as in pompous or pretentious.  

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