All Creatures Great and Small
Because you knew I couldn’t let this go without saying something.
We are all made of words, you know? We writers, we thinkers, we fashioners of notions—we create things out of words, out of smaller pieces that have substance in and of themselves. And just as Goldilocks discovered, sometimes there are words that are too small, and other words too big, and still other words just right.
The choice of the word is not up to the reader, but to the writer. Writers do not choose a word to flummox you—they choose a word because it is right, because it most perfectly embodies the meaning they wish to express. The best word will be precise. The best word might, occasionally, be big. More occasionally still, it might be a word you don’t know.
Here is where I offer a challenge: when you read a writer using big words you don’t understand, assume that writer has selected the perfect word to describe the thing they’re describing. Look it up and learn it; incorporate it into your own lexicon. Lexicon is a word which here means “words that you use when telling the butcher how you like your meat sliced.” Or don’t. Look it up and realize that the writer maybe didn’t use that word in a way that jibes with your understanding of the piece—forgive them and move on. What we do with words is a craft, a lifelong pursuit of perfection we’ll probably never reach. Those of us on the path are alright with that.
If you’re a writer, your goal is to tell your story, to craft your image, the best way you can. If it’s said a picture’s worth a thousand words, see if you can do it in half that. Apologies—you might have to use some big words to do it. Don’t begrudge others for having a larger vocabulary than you. If you’re reading this, you have access to free dictionaries—use them. The simplest language may be best for the simplest thoughts, but big words exist for a reason. Learn them.
© 2015 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller