Words I Wish I Could Use in Casual Conversation

This afternoon’s post will most likely not edify you in any way. It will most likely not be beneficial or thought provoking or even intriguing. I just have to get this off my mind, unfortunately at your expense. The following is a list of words I wish I could use in everyday conversation, but either (1) there will never be an appropriate time to use said word in conversation or (2) even if it was appropriate, and you used it, the people would just look at you like you were a jerk and question why you had to be so magniloquent all the time. They’re the kind of words for which the only reason you’d say them in casual conversation is to try and show how sesquipedalian your prose can be. Trust me, I’ve actually tried using one of these words before, in a conversation with my wife and father . . . and they both told me just to stop talking because they didn’t care. So, since people would just look at me funny for trying to use them, I’ll make a list of them. That’s okay, right? Here we go:

1. Magniloquent: lofty and extravagant in speech. Distinct from “magnificent,” which speaks to one’s actual brilliance and “grandiloquent,” which refers to one being bombastic generally. This is one of the words that could actually come up in conversation. You could very easily compliment another as being magniloquent. Unfortunately, complimenting one’s skillful use of words by using a this word only makes you look insincere, like the only reason you gave the complement was to be able to show off your own vocabulary. Don’t use this word . . . you’ll just look pompous.

2. Contrastive focus reduplication: Okay, this consists of three words, but all the same. Contrastive focus reduplication refers to the repetition of a single word to point to a more restrictive, and often prototypical, meaning. For example, at lunch time, you might ask if someone is eating a salad, to which they might respond, “yeah, but it’s tuna salad, not salad-salad.” The use of “salad-salad,” here, is a form of contrastive focus reduplication that refers to a more limited, specifically green salad over-against salads in general. Similarly, in Junior High, you might have asked someone, “Do you like her, or like-her-like-her?” And as mentioned, contrastive focus reduplication is often employed to signify the prototypical meaning of an object, a form of “retronym.” So, for example, you might say that you are reading a book-book, to point to the fact that you don’t use any of those newfangled e-book readers as you prefer to hold real paper and read with a pencil in hand.

Unfortunately, the only way I can ever imagine this word comes up in casual conversation goes something like this:

Jack: “I was reading that book they told us about yesterday and really enjoyed what I little of it I got through.”

Me: “Oh yeah, I believe you mean, “through which I got,” but regardless, did you download it on your Kindle?”

Jack: “No, I got the book-book, not the e-book.”

Me: “Awesome. And by the way, nice use of contrastive focus reduplication. It’s a form of retronymy.”

Jack: “Have I every told you how much I hate talking to you?”

As you can see, I’m not very good at carrying on casual conversation. Unfortunately, this is more or less how it went when I tried to talk to my wife and father, except I talked for about 8 more minutes trying to teach them the concept.

3. Retronym: A retronym is a new name given to an older object to distinguish it from an object that has newly emerged and possibly supplanted it. For example, an acoustic guitar never needed to be called an “acoustic” guitar until the invention of the electric guitar. Beforehand, it was just a “guitar.” Similarly, straight razors were just razors before the invention of a “safety” razor, which is the new “just razor.” Again, though, the only instance in which I can image being able to use this word is if somebody says one of these words (“Hey, I was playing my new acoustic guitar last night.”) and I respond with, “Oh yeah, that’s cool. Did you know acoustic guitar is a retronym?” Again, Jack avoids having conversations with me.

4. Historicity: refers to the historical authenticity/actuality of a narrative, person, event, etc. It asks, “Is this the way it actually happened?” Is it historical reality, or is it myth/legend? And while this word could actually be used appropriately in a variety of contexts, most people would rather you say, “I don’t think that’s how it actually happened?” instead of saying, “The historicity of that event remains in question.” Again, you just sound pompous.

5. Achrony: Coined by Gerard Genette in his treatise on time and narrative and the time-relations between story-time and discourse-time, “achrony” refers to there being no chronological relation between the story (the content of the narrative) and discourse (the expression and communication of that content). That is, while some stories are told in sequential/chronological order, others are told in such a way where that chronology is interrupted with flashbacks, flashforwards, and the like, but which are still dependent on a chronological relationship. Achrony, on the other hand, refers to a grouping of a discourse and story either randomly or based on completely different principles of organization (spatial, thematic, etc.). I think it’s pretty obvious why this shouldn’t be brought up around the office watercooler.

The problem with achrony, like all the previous words (except maybe magniloquent, which I only listed because I used it in the introduction), is that these are concepts that I just find intriguing. And while I have only a cursory understanding of most of them, I’m fascinated by retronyms, the historicity of ancient events, and the distinction between a story and its discourse and the function of each in narrative structure. They just make you look pretentious.

Are there any words like this that you would like to use, but don’t want to look arrogant? Or that you do use anyway? What’s the common reaction when you do

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5 Comments on “Words I Wish I Could Use in Casual Conversation”

  1. August 7, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

    Somewhat edifying, but not edifying edifying.

  2. bueno
    August 9, 2012 at 2:44 am #

    Sesquipedalian, which itself happens to be a sesquipedalian.

  3. September 4, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

    I can’t get enough of your posts, really. 🙂

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