[musings] using big words

In high school, I was actively encouraged to not use words like salient, salacious, or salubrious. They got in the way of the what I wanted to communicate, the teacher explained. She told me to stop using the thesaurus.

I never used the thesaurus– okay, maybe for words like “good”, but who doesn’t? Everything, for the most part, is natural and spontaneous. People find that when conversing with me in a long conversation, I pause once in a while to find the most exact word, like salient, salacious, or salubrious. I am looking for an exact word, not the most fancy version. If saying healthy will suffice, I will say healthy instead of salubrious. If you are staying in a cottage by the sea to recover from gout, by Jove I will say that your situation is salubrious. Words don’t just carry their definitions, they also carry their connotations. “Annoyed” and “irritated” are listed as synonyms of each other quite often, but most native speakers would agree that they are distinct moods. As it is with “healthy” and “salubrious”.

When I started writing papers at college, I found that I could throw all of this “you can’t use big words” suppression out the window. Professors simply don’t care for the most part– English professors mostly just care if you use it in the appropriate situation. In my professional life as well, I am privileged to be part of a deeply academic atmosphere, highly educated and precise. What was thought to be weird previously, is the norm now.

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