sesquipedalian

Over on HR Marketer,  Heath has a good go at the problem of bad business writing.

But I have suffered in silence long enough over poorly worded business communications. Action must be taken.

I’m with you.  Make the stuff simple.

That said, although I hate badly written, jargon-ridden sentences,  I’m a sucker for a big word.

Next time I get sent that sort of press release I’ll be tempted to reply, this is a bit sesquipedalian for my liking.

We owe this word to the Roman writer Horace, who wrote in his Ars Poetica (The Art of Poetry): “Proicit ampullas et sesquipedalia verba” (“He throws aside his paint pots and his words that are a foot and a half long”). It comes from Latin sesqui–, one and a half, plus ped, a foot. It was borrowed into English in the seventeenth century and has become a favourite of those writers who like self-referential terms, or are addicted to polysyllabic humour.

It appears, somewhat disguised, in The History of Mr Polly by H G Wells: “Words attracted [Mr Polly] curiously, words rich in suggestion, and he loved a novel and striking phrase. His school training had given him little or no mastery of the mysterious pronunciation of English, and no confidence in himself… He avoided every recognized phrase in the language, and mispronounced everything in order that he shouldn’t be suspected of ignorance but whim. ‘Sesquippledan,’ he would say. ‘Sesquippledan verboojuice.’ ”

Somebody who uses long words is a sesquipedalianist, and this style of writing is sesquipedalianism. The noun sesquipedality means “lengthiness”. If such words are not enough, there’s always hyperpolysyllabicsesquipedalianist for someone who enjoys using really long words.

Thanks to the worldwide words 

The English language is  rich and deep.  It is a pity that so much business and journalist writing is so dismally bad.

Via Vinnie’s post on Michael Arrington I came across this piece in the L A times.

The TechCrunch poll reflected the youthanized nature of Silicon Valley: .

The word youthanized scares the hell out of me, it isn’t even that long, but is sure is ugly.  What happened to youthful? Or even just plain young?  Andrew Keen couldn’t even blame an amateur  blogger for this, it was written by a proper journalist.

As a final note: A fine use of the word sesquipedalian can be found here.

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