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Words To The Wise: Too Many Syllables

Hello, hello! Welcome back to Words to the Wise! Today’s post is going to be about long words. Why? Because they’re amusing, often helpful, and sometimes oddly succinct for a very long concept.

Additionally, I’m going to throw in a few words you can use to call out people who use long words for the sake of using long words. I like using interesting words because I love them. I love the sound of them, I love knowing that they’ve probably been cobbled together by someone who has a long idea and wants one word to say it in, and I love expressing a very particular idea with a single word. But sometimes people use long words because they want to sound intelligent. So I have a couple of words for you today that are about long words.


First is sesquipedalian! I really enjoy saying this word. It sounds to me like a relative of a centipede. And I suppose metaphorically it could be. Sesquipedalian means a word with many syllables, or something characterized by using long words. It’s from latin, ped for foot, and sesqui, which is one and a half. Literally it means a foot and a half long. I love this word because I find it fascinating to see how another person visualizes long words: here literally as long, but also as something involving feet. And then how that very literal, hyperbolic expression of an idea can turn into a word that has a more metaphorical type of a meaning. Mmmm, language change, how I love thee.


The next word I absolutely love. I can’t take full credit for this one, I heard about it from my weekly email from World Wide Words, a great website of antiquated and bizarre words. This one was a few weeks ago and it just made me smile. Logodaedalus is someone who manipulates words with great cunning. So if there’s a smarty pants just bothering you with their sophistry, call them a logodaedalus and see their lack of comeback. Daedalus was the guy who designed the labyrinth, so the word also has connotations of using words in a labyrinthine fashion. It has a Greek root, from logos (word). Plus it’s another one that’s just really fun to say.


That’s all for this week, as it’s finals and I am STRESSED out.


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Olivia is a giant pile of nerd who tends to freak out about linguistic prescriptivism, gender roles, and discrimination against the mentally ill. By day she writes things for the Autism Society of Minnesota, and by night she writes things everywhere else. Check out her ongoing screeds against jerkbrains at www.taikonenfea.wordpress.com

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