I just bought the November issue of Vanity Fair magazine, lured by Daniel Craig’s ice blue gaze and slightly smug expression on the cover, and a very long line at the grocery store.
The Daniel Craig interview was a bit brief for my tastes (although he did seem like a guy who’d be fun to have a beer with), but on page 134 I stumbled across this little gem: “The V.F. Bad-Style Guide: Fake-Smart Words.”
As per the orders of author David Kamp, the following words have been banned: (nouns) plethora, accolade, tome and (verbs) garner, opine and doff. Mr. Kamp’s thesis is that using these words ad nauseam “. . . makes you sound like . . . a showboating, untrustworthy preacher . . .”
Valid point. Rarely do the conversations of fictional characters translate realistically to the day-to-day verbal transactions of our world. As I write this, Dawson’s Creek is white noise in the background (my roommate is in the home stretch of his obsession, i.e., almost finished with the final season). Has there ever been a show with more words that should be banned from its characters’ dialogue? Or dialogue that should just be banned based on its general cringe-inducing qualities?1
I love words. Reading them, writing them and, yes, saying them. But I don’t speak like the characters in my favorite books. Michael Ondaatje is an author whose work I read and again. He creates worlds that I sink into, happily lost as I travel from Sri Lanka to Egypt, from the casinos of Las Vegas to the logging camps of coldest Canada. However, I would sound like a pretentious fool if I adopted the speaking patterns and word choice of Ondaatje’s characters. It works in his novels, because although he uses a historical lens to frame his stories, there is an otherworldly quality to the landscapes his characters inhabit. It’s a world that seems familiar, because we recognize the geographical context (i.e., New Mexico, turn of the century), but the action within that context is slightly skewed toward the exotic, the surreal, the unfamiliar. Therefore, the eccentric dialogue is acceptable in that it enhances the mood Ondaatje is creating.
What words do you think should be retired? What words do you think (in the words of David Kamp) “. . . suggest a non-smart person trying too to seem smart?” I would offer up soiree, myriad and the over-pronunciation of French and Spanish words by English speakers (a crime that, I hate to admit, I’ve been totally guilty of in the past. I promise to STOP).
Also, Urban Dictionary has it’s own definition that I think hits the nail on its pretentious head. Just click here to read.
1My roommate, offended that I would slander the sacred cow that is Dawson’s Creek, insisted that I include Gilmore Girls as an example of falsely sophisticated dialogue that causes viewers to fidget with discomfort and embarrassment. I disagree, but have included it to appease him so that when I ask him to weather strip all the windows, I’ll be met with less of a surly response.