You, Sir (Or Madam), Are A Pontifical Nincompoop
January 27, 2007 8:09 PM   Subscribe

Pompous Ass Words is a site dedicated to identifying words that shouldn't be used, on the grounds that doing so makes you sound like a pompous ass. With humorous citations and links to examples of pompous word usage by the media.
posted by amyms (202 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Synedouche.
posted by loquacious at 8:13 PM on January 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Cease your hegemonic discourse!
posted by isopraxis at 8:14 PM on January 27, 2007


Risible? Tendentious? Since when were these pompous? For that matter, casus belli? Find me another term as precise and succinct as casus belli.

When people use unusual words to show off, they're being pompous. When they happen to know the appropriate word, they shouldn't be intimidated by the ignorance of their readers. We'd be better off if more newspaper stories were written beyond a grade six vocabulary. It might mean that people tried to develop a higher-than-grade-six understanding of the world.
posted by Dasein at 8:22 PM on January 27, 2007 [13 favorites]


Just because you don't know a word doesn't make it pompous. For example, "tsuris" is yiddish slang -- a good guy can use it and still be a mensch.

Jewish gangsters use it all the time in James Ellroy novels, and I don't think they're showing off.

"Seppuku" is a great word. Did you know that back when folks did such a thing, it was considered the ultimate diss to take your newborn guts in your hand and toss them in the direction of your enemy as you died? And now, this guy's telling you your pompous?

Now, "sobriquet." Yeah, that one's bad.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:24 PM on January 27, 2007


There are a lot more down-to-earth words that he could have used than "pompous", don'tcha think?
posted by spock at 8:26 PM on January 27, 2007


Personally, I enjoy using pompous ass words (or PAWs, as the site calls them) lol... But I only use them if I know I'm speaking with someone who won't stare at me uncomprehendingly (is that a PAW?) like a deer caught in the headlights.
posted by amyms at 8:34 PM on January 27, 2007


Speaking of tactical errors, he really should've come up with a better site name than pompous ass-words.
posted by duende at 8:36 PM on January 27, 2007 [4 favorites]


Yiddish is never pompous.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:36 PM on January 27, 2007 [4 favorites]


If this man believes that seppuku is pompous then he obviously does not have real ultimate power.
posted by JackarypQQ at 8:36 PM on January 27, 2007


Dunno if it's exactly the same, but I'd count words such as Lieutenant which most people pronounce one way ("loo-ten-ant"), but there's always some PA that has to pronounce it the other acceptable way just to prove a point, it seems.
posted by milnak at 8:38 PM on January 27, 2007


Eh. I'd take pompous over proudly ignorant any day.
posted by facetious at 8:40 PM on January 27, 2007


It's their forte, which I pronounce fort.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:40 PM on January 27, 2007


I like the idea of exposing pompous language, but I don't think the page's author really understands the concept. Words like "empower" and lots of other "business-speak" are (to me) pompous: they are used by people who think that "help" and similar, shorter words make them look dumb, when the opposite is quite true.
posted by maxwelton at 8:41 PM on January 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ick. Awful.

Disregarding that I disagree with the premise, they don't even execute the premise properly.

For example, their definition of a "pompous ass word" is:
an uncommonly understood word that is synonymous with a commonly understood one.
But then they give examples like:
Word: casus belli
Synonymous with: An act or event that provokes or is used to justify war.
That's not "synonymous with a commonly understood word". That's "with a meaning".

Or even worse:
Word: amygdala
Synonymous with: Nothing in particular.
To be clear, the meaning of "amygdala" is not "nothing in particular", and he's not saying that it is. He's saying that he can't think of another term that's synonymous with amygdala. Flying in the face of his premise.

Now, look. If you're going to try to gussy up your anti-intellectualism with definitions, stick to those definitions.

Horrible link.
posted by Flunkie at 8:42 PM on January 27, 2007 [5 favorites]


i'm dumb=your pompous
posted by chococat at 8:45 PM on January 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


you're.
see, I am dumb.
posted by chococat at 8:45 PM on January 27, 2007 [3 favorites]


I can't stand it when political commentators use the word "rankle" to describe some sort of annoyance.
posted by delmoi at 8:53 PM on January 27, 2007


Milnak, they might just be British, where "lef-ten-ant" is a well known and accepted variant, often used in lef of the North American way, and not necessarily pompous.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:54 PM on January 27, 2007 [3 favorites]


Since when is "rictus" pompous? And seppuku?! Geez. And he doesn't put hari kiri on there next to it?

Christ this guy is an ass. It's not as if he's ignorant, it's just he'd rather not hear anything that wouldn't be in a fluff human interest article for USA Today. One with a lot of colorful graphs at that.
posted by Talanvor at 8:57 PM on January 27, 2007


Clearly, he doesn't believe in Pompous Ass Web Design, (PAWD) either.
posted by spock at 8:59 PM on January 27, 2007


"Palaver" is copasetic with me, pal o' mine.
posted by SPrintF at 8:59 PM on January 27, 2007


Milnak, pronounciation of Lieutenant should depend on what country the officer is from. Only America, as far as I know, calls its Lieutenants "loo-tenant." Elsewhere in the English-speaking world, the British pronounciation was (properly) retained.

An American officer and a British officer are talking. The American asks the British officer, "Where do you get the 'f' in Lieutenant?" The Brit replies, "Same place we got 'r' in Colonel."
posted by Dasein at 9:00 PM on January 27, 2007 [3 favorites]


Brits also wonder where we get the "d" in thirty.
posted by spock at 9:02 PM on January 27, 2007


The word I really hate is "nucular". That word is so elitist, it doesn't even exist in a dictionary. At least, it's not in the dictionary at my hometown liebary.
posted by newfers at 9:06 PM on January 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


Idiocracy.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:14 PM on January 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


Indubitably, this necessitates forthwith the deployment of Ham-Hands.
posted by cortex at 9:16 PM on January 27, 2007


Dick choke!
posted by loquacious at 9:24 PM on January 27, 2007


Of all the marvels found in language, I've always been particularly impressed by its ability to take care of itself without the intrusion of self-appointed arbiters.
posted by RavinDave at 9:25 PM on January 27, 2007 [6 favorites]


It's a shame he's missing "callipygous," the most pompous ass-word of them all.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:26 PM on January 27, 2007 [6 favorites]


Of all the marvels found in language, I've always been particularly impressed by its ability to take care of itself without the intrusion of self-appointed arbiters.

That's a very astute, insightful and perspicacious observation, RavinDave.
posted by amyms at 9:27 PM on January 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


You have the temerity to say that I'm talking to you out of jejunosity? I am one of the most june people in all of the Russias.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:29 PM on January 27, 2007


Piling on now: a fine premise, poorly executed.
posted by rokusan at 9:29 PM on January 27, 2007


Pimfinickle and squallyhoot!
posted by rougy at 9:30 PM on January 27, 2007


a fine premise, poorly executed

Indeed. My favorite Pompous Ass Word is utilize, synonym: use. I used it liberally in school to make papers sound more smart-like.
posted by scottreynen at 9:39 PM on January 27, 2007


Buttocks is my favorite pompous ass word.
posted by carsonb at 9:41 PM on January 27, 2007


Seppuku?!
posted by matkline at 9:47 PM on January 27, 2007


Is the expression "pompous ass" slightly pompous?
posted by newfers at 9:49 PM on January 27, 2007


Palaver? Finally, the smoking gun that proves Stephen King is a pompous ass.
posted by ed at 9:57 PM on January 27, 2007


Pet peeeve of mine? "Burglarize".

"Burgle" will do nicely, and sounds much cooler, anyway.

Go ahead, try it. I'm right, admit it.
posted by darkstar at 9:57 PM on January 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ritual suicide by disembowelment formerly practiced by Japanese samurai. Also called hara-kiri if you're trying to be an offensive twat.

Gee, and I thought the problem was that everything was being dumbed down. Several of these words are in common use, and not by the "intellectual elite". Properly used, they add colour, and most importantly, they often add precision. Just throw this steaming bit of (base) anti-intellectualism on the pile, I guess. My guess is that reading anything heavier than a magazine really pisses this guy off. Great quality in a writer.
posted by dreamsign at 9:58 PM on January 27, 2007


My most-hated pompous ass word is "myself", used incorrectly ALL OF THE TIME NOW instead of the word that should be used in the sentence: "me". The notion that there is something wrong with “me” leads people to overcorrect and avoid it where it is perfectly appropriate.

See: Common Errors in English.
posted by spock at 9:58 PM on January 27, 2007


a fine poor premise, poorly executed

posted by juv3nal at 9:59 PM on January 27, 2007


Pretty much what Flunkie said. I'll just add that after only a few entries I started to cringe when I got to the "synonymous with" part, because it would increasingly make the guy look somewhat idiotic, and I liked his premise (and especially the delicious ambiguity of the site name). But I soon got the idea that he thought of words he was tired of hearing pompous asses use, looked them up in a thesaurus or dictionary and reported back. So: "Fait accompli" is synonymous with "a thing that is already done so that opposition or argument is useless." Great, so, what, we're supposed to use that thirteen-word phrase instead of a well-known, well-understood Latin phrase? Get real.
posted by soyjoy at 10:00 PM on January 27, 2007


This man seems to want a language without panache. Screw him, he's an ass.
posted by oddman at 10:17 PM on January 27, 2007




can (may) we use

Tenacity

emblematic

brobdignagian

colloquial

smarmy

intrinsic
posted by longsleeves at 10:21 PM on January 27, 2007


Reading that site set my teeth on edge. Amygdala, deseridatum, anodyne, manqué, in medias res, casus belli, and seppuku are all fine words without any English equivalent. He comes across as saying, "I can't be arsed to learn new things, and anyone who does know more than me is somehow inferior," like some kind of cross between George W. Bush and a tenth-grade English student.
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:21 PM on January 27, 2007


i could've used this site when studying for the GRE
posted by localhuman at 10:23 PM on January 27, 2007


This list may be bunk, but I can tell you from experience that once the word "ontological" gets played, you might as well give up on the rest of the sentence, because it's nothing more than fish heresy masquerading as zebra algebra.

See?
posted by kid ichorous at 10:28 PM on January 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


I prefer the term "those little nut-lookin' thingers inside yer noggin" to amygdala. Of course, in my straight-talking human anatomy class, we also referred to the femur as "leg bone number two."
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 10:29 PM on January 27, 2007 [4 favorites]


See, I'm so dumb I thought Stephen King made up the word "palaver" in his Dark Tower books.

Yay! So does this mean I have street cred because I'm stupid?

And, what about "grok?" Can you say that without being pompous? (Another word I use that I assumed was made up for Stranger In a Strange Land.)
posted by Kloryne at 10:35 PM on January 27, 2007


"Burgle" will do nicely, and sounds much cooler, anyway.

It's up there with "thieve" when it comes to underused words for illegal behaviour. Also, isn't "larceny" a great word? But then I once made up a list of my faves, and someone noted that it had a... decidedly antisocial bent.
posted by dreamsign at 10:35 PM on January 27, 2007


Oh please. Anyone who thinks the list affirming purported values in a "humorous" way is a tenable genre in which no innovation or insight is a fool.

He doesn't even know what pompous is.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 10:35 PM on January 27, 2007


*in which no innovation or insight is required to maintain the rent is a fool.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 10:36 PM on January 27, 2007


Kloryne:
And, what about "grok?" Can you say that without being pompous? (Another word I use that I assumed was made up for Stranger In a Strange Land.)
Was it not?

Merriam-Webster claims it was.
posted by Flunkie at 10:42 PM on January 27, 2007


"Thieve" is a superb word.

I intend to use it next time an opportune moment arises, in place of "steal".
posted by darkstar at 10:43 PM on January 27, 2007


Flunkie: "Was it not?"

Oh, well, now I see. Yes it was. I was starting to doubt everything...
posted by Kloryne at 10:44 PM on January 27, 2007


There's nothing pompous about the word "grok." It's stone cold nerd.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:45 PM on January 27, 2007


Do so furtively.
posted by Flunkie at 10:45 PM on January 27, 2007


Astro Zombie and Flunkie: I can dig it.
posted by Kloryne at 10:46 PM on January 27, 2007


Let's watch the monkey dance
Anti-intellectualism
Make fun of the South of France
Anti-intellectualism
I found these balls
They're made of brass
This little bathtub
Smells like ass
Look!
A see-through wall of glass!
Anti-intellectualism
Source: ze.
posted by oxford blue at 10:48 PM on January 27, 2007


Dude, your shit's all retarded.
posted by 2sheets at 10:54 PM on January 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


You know what the best word of all time is?

Archaeopteryx.

Just say it out loud. It's satisfying. Archaeopteryx!

Ye-ah.
posted by ELF Radio at 10:54 PM on January 27, 2007


I can't stand people who, through their bloviation, make others doubt their command of language, thereby causing them to think twice before saying anything.

That said... soyjoy, "fait accompli" is French
posted by Kattullus at 11:07 PM on January 27, 2007


Flagged as ricockulous.

Get thee to a dictionary!
posted by oncogenesis at 11:13 PM on January 27, 2007


I'm with scottreynen on "utilize," and maxwelton on the abuses of business-speak. Many years ago, a woman actually spoke these sentences to me: "I need you to partner sheets from both of these stacks. You can utilize a stapler to facilitate your task." My soul died a little inside me just remembering that.
posted by maryh at 11:23 PM on January 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is a sempiternal complaint.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:24 PM on January 27, 2007


It is fitting that mefi, with its high geek ratio, does not agree with his judgement on these words.

By the way; I seem to recall a post on mefi of an interview with Myke Tyson where Tyson consistently uses 'fornicate' instead of 'fuck'.

Some people in that thread thought Tyson was surprisingly intelligent.

I just got the impression that Tyson had been reading a 'difficult word' a day in prison. Self-improvement.

But the point I'm trying to make is: apparently using obscure words make you seem more intelligent. As proven by you, dear mefites.
posted by jouke at 11:32 PM on January 27, 2007


Synecdoche is a fine word. His definition is incorrect, and the word is misused in his example quote.

This dude is an idiot. He doesn't even know the definition for many of these "pompous ass" words.

Most of the time, he can't even explain why he thinks they are "pompous ass."

In fact, I would argue that the very act of creating such a list is a bit "pompous ass" in and of itself.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:46 PM on January 27, 2007


I cannot believe "fustian" has yet to be mentioned in this thread. What are you guys going on about?
posted by 0xFCAF at 11:51 PM on January 27, 2007


I cannot believe "fustian" has yet to be mentioned in this thread. What are you guys going on about?

Don't get your fustian panties in a twist, OxFCAF.
posted by amyms at 12:15 AM on January 28, 2007


We've struck a Faustian fustian bargain.
posted by maxwelton at 12:18 AM on January 28, 2007


I find "meh" pompous.
posted by bwg at 12:23 AM on January 28, 2007


We've struck a Faustian fustian bargain.

See, I used to think that about "Dickensian". (I still shudder a bit) But this is all about mere exposure.

If "casus belli" and "in medias res" is pompous, why isn't "status quo" and "MO" (modus operandi)?

For that matter, shouldn't he be claiming that the reverse has no obverse, if you know what I mean?

This guy is an embarassment, but we are certainly not his target group. There are plenty of people who get aggravated at "five dollar words" and it's because of a whole lot of things having nothing at all to do with the word.
posted by dreamsign at 12:31 AM on January 28, 2007


Also, the part where he quotes William Safire using the word "amygdala" pompously comes from a piece where Safire is actually using it as a joke to mock people who use unnecessarily complex terms. Which, you might argue, suggests that the author of the Pompous-Ass Words Home Page is a wazzock.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 12:36 AM on January 28, 2007


These are pompous ass words? Aw! Damn you, Reader's Digest - damn you to hell!
posted by Phanx at 1:11 AM on January 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


And the irony is, he originally got the domain to sell antique weaponry "Pompous As Swords"...

...apparently using obscure words make you seem more intelligent. As proven by you, dear mefites.
And I thought using "fuck" was supposed to make you seem more cool and edgy, jouke.

Same thing for "ass"... hmmm... note to self: register "pompouspatootiewords.com"
posted by wendell at 1:26 AM on January 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


This link is the Time Cube of prescriptivism.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 1:27 AM on January 28, 2007


Apparently "pompous" is a synonym of "verbose".
posted by Target Practice at 2:01 AM on January 28, 2007


using "fuck" was supposed to make you seem more cool and edgy
Being a foreigner to the US I wouldn't know. Here in Kazakhstan using "fuck" is middle-class and suburban.

Maybe Tyson does not need to be more edgy?
posted by jouke at 2:26 AM on January 28, 2007


Christ, what a schmuck.
posted by hal9k at 3:09 AM on January 28, 2007


I like the link, but more in a "ooo, how many of these do I know?" way. Admittedly it can be a pain in the ass when newspaper writers think they need to spruce up their text by mining the thesaurus. But on the other hand, one of the fun things about the English language is its huge and varied vocabulary, and it would be a shame to forbid half of them out of a fear of sounding over-intellectual.

Then again, this is me. Whenever I can find a way of using "agglutinate" in everyday conversation, I'm a happy bunny.
posted by Zarkonnen at 3:13 AM on January 28, 2007


Wow, people with small vocabularies are touchy.
posted by signal at 3:23 AM on January 28, 2007


Wow, people who are threatened by others' vocabularies and intelligence are touchy.
posted by watsondog at 3:58 AM on January 28, 2007


Find me another term as precise and succinct as casus belli.

9/11
posted by matteo at 3:59 AM on January 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


This guy is an embarrassment. 'Word: prelapsarian
Synonymous with: I don't know exactly.' Followed by a usage that's obviously a joke. And so on and so on.

More importantly, where's 'impacted' used as a verb, my number-one pomposity gripe?
posted by Mocata at 4:01 AM on January 28, 2007


Chillax, people. Chillax.
posted by slimepuppy at 4:23 AM on January 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Speaking of lieutenants, one of my markers of pompous is when an American uses in lieu. There just is no reason to use a foreign word of uncertain pronunciation (it must be, considering the ways I've heard it said) that is an exact equivalent of a common English word. Especially since to use it in English, you have to append an English word to it, thus producing a two-word, mixed-language expression instead of a one-word, all-English expression.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:35 AM on January 28, 2007


Uh, hello? That should be Pompous-ass Word, not Pompous Ass Word, which allows the reading Pompous Ass-word.
posted by sutt at 5:03 AM on January 28, 2007


I really, really don't see where this guy is coming from. English, as a language that's influenced daily by hundreds of thousands of non-native speakers that bring in new vocabulary items, that has grown from a plethora of sources, and has borrowed or hijacked the words from literally dozens of other languages is now accused of sounding pompous?
Why did you acquire all those lemmata in the first place, if not to use them?
I'd really appreciate it if that guy in particular would spend his time on something more appropriate, like chastising those that use words like "irregardless" or other blatantly false wordings.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 5:04 AM on January 28, 2007


Tsuris does not make you a pompous ass. It makes you an alterkocker.
posted by jonmc at 5:08 AM on January 28, 2007


Target Practice : "Apparently 'pompous' is a synonym of 'verbose'."

Link to list of supposedly pompous words : "Word: fait accompli
Synonymous with: (Latin) "a thing that is already done so that opposition or argument is useless."


No, I'd say that apparently 'pompous' is a synonym of 'concise'.
posted by Bugbread at 5:23 AM on January 28, 2007


I don't think the owner of pompousasswords.com would know a mot juste if it bit him on the (pompous) ass.
posted by scruss at 5:34 AM on January 28, 2007


"jejune" indeed.
posted by hermitosis at 6:06 AM on January 28, 2007


This reminds me that i have an episode of deadwood waiting for me. You pompous cocksuckers!
posted by FidelDonson at 6:13 AM on January 28, 2007


Here's a witty rejoinder for ya!

(Throws nameplate at submitter)
posted by evilcolonel at 6:20 AM on January 28, 2007


I can tell you from experience that once the word "ontological" gets played, you might as well give up on the rest of the sentence, because it's nothing more than fish heresy masquerading as zebra algebra. (kid ichorous)

oh, as a philosophy student I'm feeling a little guilty - but why is "ontological" unacceptable? Is it just that philosophy students are never saying anything worth saying? Or do people in other fields use this term differently?

I seem to recall a post on mefi of an interview with Myke Tyson where Tyson consistently uses 'fornicate' instead of 'fuck'.
Some people in that thread thought Tyson was surprisingly intelligent.
I just got the impression that Tyson had been reading a 'difficult word' a day in prison. Self-improvement.
(jouke)

In a lot of churches, 'fornicate' is a pretty ordinary word, and in some black neighborhoods there is a certain influx of big-sounding church words becoming regular street terms (the churches are usually little storefronts with someone preachin' it up front). Anyway, I don't think you need to turn to word a day calendars to explain that one.
Which reminds us, words you think sound fancy may be ordinary terms to someone else, and vice versa. We can judge by syllable, but that doesn't get us very far - most of these are 3-syllable, and there are countless widely used 3+ syllable words (fantastic, stupidity, pineapple); we can judge by complexity of definition, perhaps, but then we can't claim pomposity anymore as we're essentially proving the word is a finely carved artifact, not just a big paperweight.

one of my markers of pompous is when an American uses in lieu. There just is no reason to use a foreign word ... that is an exact equivalent of a common English word. (Kirth Gerson)

Perhaps the very strength you give to "instead" is also its weakness: that it has become one word, and hence when it is used, you are no longer stressing the "stead", and the term overall becomes abstract. To say "in stead of the lecture, we will sing arias" feels slightly different from "instead of the lecture, we will sing arias". You could go with "in place of", but that perhaps puts more focus on the placement or physicality and might not feel right referring to, for instance, a lecture.

Basically, I think any of these phrases have subtle differences which more articulate or language-involved folks might enjoy sorting through. I'm not saying everyone has to find these nuances intriguing, but to presume that one who does is only trying to impress his or her listeners, rather than honestly attempting to convey a thought with as much clarity as possible, is unnecessary.
posted by mdn at 6:34 AM on January 28, 2007


[This is dumb.]
posted by languagehat at 6:57 AM on January 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


Synecdoche: it's written, "stand-in, maybe?" As in, there's actually no commonly understood word that is synonymous with this uncommonly understood one.

Prelapsarian: should not be used outside of a theology discussion; as in, no one is allowed to use any sort of metaphor, simile, allusion, or any other figurative trope in normal conversation. If a guy fucks his mom and kills his dad, don't you dare fucking mention Oedipus!

Anodyne: I use this word three times a week.

In medias res: Some people actually talk about Greek and Roman epic poetry when they're shooting the shit; I don't know how else you're going to describe the timeline except periphrastically. Oh shit! I just used another pompous-ass word!
posted by adoarns at 7:03 AM on January 28, 2007


manqué - Without which we wouldn't (hey, I can alliterate!) have the awesome Lovejoy quote:

"I don't want the manqué...I want the organ-grinder."
posted by Egg Go Boom at 7:18 AM on January 28, 2007


I used the word exacerbate and my friend stopped me to ask what that meant. I said it meant the subject of the story had made the situation worse. My friend said "well why didn't you just say he made it worse then?" This is the point at which I decided my friend was a moron.
posted by autodidact at 7:20 AM on January 28, 2007


It's about subtlety.... The fact that two words are synonyms does not make those two words universally interchangeable. For instance, "use" and "utilize":

You can "use" any object to do anything, but you can really only "utilize" something to do what it was designed to do. So you "use" a ladder to rescue someone from ice, but you "utilize" a ladder to climb high enough to change a lightbulb. Subtle, but meaningful.

I for one try to maintain a very high precision of speech.
posted by autodidact at 7:26 AM on January 28, 2007


Let me add one final thing: I lose my mind every time I hear someone describe something as "addicting". It's addictIVE, I don't care if it's in the dictionary.
posted by autodidact at 7:28 AM on January 28, 2007


I disagree on 'proactive' getting a stay of execution. Any and all opportunities should be taken to crush this middle-manager, focus group speak. This bullshit non-word needs to be crammed back into the maw of the sales seminar from whence it came.
posted by EatTheWeek at 7:31 AM on January 28, 2007


snippyassignoramus.com
posted by MaxVonCretin at 7:40 AM on January 28, 2007


Kirth Gerson:
Speaking of lieutenants, one of my markers of pompous is when an American uses in lieu. There just is no reason to use a foreign word of uncertain pronunciation (it must be, considering the ways I've heard it said) that is an exact equivalent of a common English word. Especially since to use it in English, you have to append an English word to it, thus producing a two-word, mixed-language expression instead of a one-word, all-English expression.
"In lieu" is English.

Yes, it was borrowed from another language. Which makes it... like every other bit of English.
posted by Flunkie at 7:45 AM on January 28, 2007


How about "garage" instead of car-hole? As in "a counterfeit ring is operating out of my car-hole!!"
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:53 AM on January 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


'Proactive' is a perfectly acceptable word; it has a specific use in psychology, and refers to a category of memory. Its converse is 'retroactive'.

As to its use in management-speak, yeah; nuke it from orbit - it's the only way to be sure.
posted by No Mutant Enemy at 8:03 AM on January 28, 2007


Why he's embiggened these words with his cromulent writing!


posted by Talanvor at 8:11 AM on January 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


You can "use" any object to do anything, but you can really only "utilize" something to do what it was designed to do.
I for one try to maintain a very high precision of speech.


You mean you try to make up a very high precision of speech.
posted by signal at 8:13 AM on January 28, 2007


I have been trying to think of an example of "lieu" surviving in English outside of its association with "in". I think I may have one, but I'm not sure:
Skip, skip, skip to the lieu
Skip, skip, skip to the lieu
Skip, skip, skip to the lieu
Skip to the lieu, my darling
Unfortunately, I am not sure that the word here really is "lieu"; in fact, a Google search for "skip to the lieu" gives two orders less of magnitude than either "skip to the loo" or "skip to the lou".

That said, "skip to the lieu" makes much more sense, in the context of a happy command to one's darling, than "skip to the loo". And "skip to the lou" just seems nonsensical.

So I suspect that the tubes may be tangled on this internet that my staff sent me.
posted by Flunkie at 8:15 AM on January 28, 2007


Chas & Dave put 'palaver' in the chorus of the seminal "Margate", and pompous they ain't.

Still, you learn something every day, and today I learned that fait accompli is Latin.

What a cock.
posted by genghis at 8:33 AM on January 28, 2007


Eschew obfuscation, espouse elucidation.
posted by Wet Spot at 8:51 AM on January 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


oh, as a philosophy student I'm feeling a little guilty - but why is "ontological" unacceptable? Is it just that philosophy students are never saying anything worth saying? Or do people in other fields use this term differently?

ontology: the things that metaphyisically exist in the world.
ontological: of or relating to the things that metaphysically exist in the world.

People who aren't philosophers don't spend a lot of time thinking about whether some damn thing like a relational property or a moral fact or a fitting reason "actually" exists, so they don't need this distinction to signal a shift in their discourse from "things that really exist" to "things that only seem like they exist or things that we talk as though exist." But lots of people know the word, so it's a natural place for shit to get stuck.

It's true that metaphysicians never say anything worth saying, but I don't think that's relevant.
posted by Kwine at 9:04 AM on January 28, 2007


I've always been irritated by Anne Rice's use of the word "Preternatural" in her Vampire Chronicles. I know that it's perfectly acceptable, but it always sounded unnecessarily over-the-top to me... which in my opinion, makes it poumpous.

If anything, I think this little experiment has shown us that poumpous-ness is in the eye of the beholder.
posted by matty at 9:10 AM on January 28, 2007


ontology: the things that metaphyisically exist in the world.
ontological: of or relating to the things that metaphysically exist in the world.


Ontology is not "things", but rather the study of being. Ontological is a relation to being or its study.
It is most certainly no about the distinction between "things that really exist" to "things that only seem like they exist or things that we talk as though exist", whatever that means.
posted by signal at 9:15 AM on January 28, 2007


When this thread was first posted, I saw it and eagerly waited the word-nerd geekout. It didn't come, and I was sad. Waking up to 100+ comments was like xmas.
posted by SassHat at 9:25 AM on January 28, 2007


"they might just be British ... and not necessarily pompous."

Is that even possible?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:25 AM on January 28, 2007


I thought this was a promising idea, poorly executed.

A widely circulated list of "Pompous Ass Phrases" could improve public discourse. Wouldn't you be happy if you never heard the phrase "if you will" from the lips of a professor or pundit again? I would. Or how about "thin on the ground"?

I'd like to see "frankly" go, too.
posted by bmckenzie at 9:34 AM on January 28, 2007


I vaguely recall reading somewhere that among Japanese sepuku was considered a good word and hari kiri not so nice. The former for samurai who ended up on the losing side of the battle and who are making a final gesture, the latter a sword based expiation of any other kind of shame. Does this sound familiar to anyone who knows Japanese?

And doesn't "imitation" connote lesser quality? Ersatz merely means substitute, much used in Germany during the world wars - chicory instead of coffee bean, coal based gasoline instead of liquid crude, und so weiter.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:40 AM on January 28, 2007


I don't think I've ever heard the phrase "thin on the ground."

I think what you're looking for, bmckenzie, is a list of Meaningless Space-filler Phrases, which would be useful. Also good: a list of Overused & Misused Words.
posted by papakwanz at 9:44 AM on January 28, 2007


I can't be the only one who is filled with weltschmerz about just how windlestraw this list is.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:27 AM on January 28, 2007


I'd rather be a pompous ass than a dumb ass.
posted by rhymer at 10:55 AM on January 28, 2007


someone keep an eye on darkstar.
posted by arialblack at 11:03 AM on January 28, 2007


When this guy dies, he'll go to a hell defined by a ceaselessly repeating verbal portion of the GRE.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:05 AM on January 28, 2007


"public discourse". Now there's a pompous ass phrase.
posted by smackfu at 11:48 AM on January 28, 2007


People who aren't philosophers don't spend a lot of time thinking about whether some damn thing ... "actually" exists, so they don't need this distinction...
It's true that metaphysicians never say anything worth saying, but I don't think that's relevant.


it seems to me it's exactly relevant - you're saying, regular people don't need to discuss metaphysics, so the word is pointless. And I'd agree that if you're not talking about the being of being, then the word would not be much use, unless there is another use I'm not familiar with. But I'm surprised it's a "place for shit to get stuck" as I can hardly imagine it coming up in a non-philosophical conversation, and in a philosophical conversation I'd think it would be an ordinary & pretty clear term, except insofar as people make a distinction between "ontological" and "ontic", which occasionally needs to be cleared up.

It is most certainly no about the distinction between "things that really exist" to "things that only seem like they exist or things that we talk as though exist", whatever that means.

well, it is certainly used this way by some portion of writers. 'Ontological' would be used to discuss the level of reality that is in-itself, as opposed to "epistemological". For instance, discussing the ontological nature of time would be asking whether time is the way it seems to be, or if there is another perspective or 'level of reality' in which time is a unity. If not, then time travel is impossible, and any notion of the "reality" of the past is questionable - if no one remembers something that happened, and no evidence of it exists, then we can even say it did not happen, because that "time"does not exist. Only "now" exists. If you want to claim that the past is real, you have to sort out what can be claimed to "really exist"...
posted by mdn at 12:09 PM on January 28, 2007


I'd rather be a pompous ass than a dumb ass.

I agree... Now I'm curious as to where smart ass and wise ass fall along the spectrum?
posted by amyms at 12:21 PM on January 28, 2007


I can hardly imagine it coming up in a non-philosophical conversation

But it does. People love showing off fancy technical terms they just came across, and they usually don't bother doing the work of figuring out the proper technical meaning, they just throw it in where they figure it will sound good. The extent to which one deplores this usually depends on the extent to which one is personally/professionally acquainted with the proper use of the word. Me, I don't mind ignorant use of ontological (which I may have perpetrated myself, having taken a philosophy course in college and forgotten almost everything I learned), but I hate ignorant use of ungrammatical.
posted by languagehat at 12:31 PM on January 28, 2007


But it does. People love showing off fancy technical terms they just came across
hm, you are probably right, though I still have some trouble imagining how "ontological" would fit into a conversation without making a metaphysical claim... I think I usually have the opposite problem, which is not being confident I understand a word well enough to use it, and feeling foolish if I use it and then second-guess its applicability. I feel like those kinds of errors stand out and make me look far more stupid than if I just used a simpler term, even if the simpler version is less precise.

but I hate ignorant use of ungrammatical.

Do you mean because it ought to be "grammatically incorrect" or because grammar shouldn't be determined as correct or incorrect to begin with?

The latter I would consider a little unfair, as there is the common usage of "does not conform to current norms of sentence structure"... A few years ago, I taught a writing class for inner city high school students who were intending to apply to college, and the whole first term of the program was grammar. We did not get into discussions about the evolution of language and the ontological :) status of correct usage, but we did explain to them what was grammatically correct, in order that they might comply with expected standards and better express themselves to a broader community.
posted by mdn at 1:04 PM on January 28, 2007


smackfu: ""public discourse". Now there's a pompous ass phrase."

I don't agree -- I like it :-) I can't think of a better (brief) equivalent that connotes the language used in "public" communications like broadcasts and lectures.
posted by bmckenzie at 1:05 PM on January 28, 2007


We should, ugh, like, all be, like, the same. Or whatever. I'm all, like, nuh. He-he. LOL. IMHO. Uh, peace.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 1:09 PM on January 28, 2007


You can "use" any object to do anything, but you can really only "utilize" something to do what it was designed to do.

Do remember next time you speak to a police officer to correct him if needs be. He'll thank you for your concern about his vocabulary and there's no way that he'll arrest you for that busted tail-light...
posted by ob at 1:14 PM on January 28, 2007


"they might just be British ... and not necessarily pompous."

Is that even possible?

Touché, Sir.

However, I take little but umbrage at the notion that pomposity is either a necessary or sufficient part of the English national character.

I say "English" rather than "British" since "British" encompasses the English, the Scots, the Welsh, and the Irish, though for some reason this is rarely acknowledged by the American Colonials, who whether through mere invention, or through simple stubborn refusal to accept their siblinghood to the Angles they fought so hard for independence from, often fancy themselves the hard drinking, honest sons and daughters of the convivial Irish or the bekilted Scot.

Alas, there is no St.George's Day parade down Fifth Avenue, nor will there ever be. Even in England, now, to speak of National Pride is merely to have oneself thought a raclst, not to avow a simple love for your country.

No matter. I have left my homeland now, but a part of me shall remain forever England, and I shall defend slights upon its people wherever I find them.

Pompous, indeed. Poppycock.

Good day, Sir.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 1:24 PM on January 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


Well Jon Mitchell, you said it all for me.
posted by ob at 1:37 PM on January 28, 2007


Perhaps the very strength you give to "instead" is also its weakness: that it has become one word, and hence when it is used, you are no longer stressing the "stead", and the term overall becomes abstract. To say "in stead of the lecture, we will sing arias" feels slightly different from "instead of the lecture, we will sing arias".

Or perhaps only you are feeling these slight differences.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:46 PM on January 28, 2007


I say "English" rather than "British" since "British" encompasses the English, the Scots, the Welsh, and the Irish, though for some reason this is rarely acknowledged by the American Colonials. . .

I thought British referred to: the English, the Scots and the Welsh. If you add the Irish into it, you are now referring - not to Britain - but to the United Kingdom. Or was I misinformed?
posted by spock at 1:52 PM on January 28, 2007


IndigoJones : "I vaguely recall reading somewhere that among Japanese sepuku was considered a good word and hari kiri not so nice. The former for samurai who ended up on the losing side of the battle and who are making a final gesture, the latter a sword based expiation of any other kind of shame. Does this sound familiar to anyone who knows Japanese?"

The rationale behind it (losing battle vs. other shame) I have no idea about, but it is definitely true that seppuku sounds tragically romantic, stoic, macho, etc., while hara-kiri just sounds gruesome and blunt. Kinda like the difference between "He was felled in battle by an enemy's bullets" and "His guts got splattered across the pavement by the enemy's machine-gun". I don't think I've ever heard a Japanese use the phrase "hara-kiri", except when telling a foreigner who uses it "We usually don't say hara-kiri, we say seppuku".
posted by Bugbread at 1:59 PM on January 28, 2007


Kirth Gerson : "Or perhaps only you are feeling these slight differences."

Nope. I feel them too. "In lieu" and "instead" feel different. "Instead" gives me a sense of "not A, as is normal or expected, but B", while "in lieu" gives me a sense of "as a replacement for".

If you send me to the grocery store to buy a beer, and I bring back a bottle of wine because I don't feel like drinking beer, I've bought wine instead of beer.
If you send me to the grocery store to buy a beer, but they're all out of beer, and I bring back a bottle of wine as a substitute, I've bought wine in lieu of beer.
posted by Bugbread at 2:02 PM on January 28, 2007


little but umbrage

Surely you mean "little butt umbrage". We are talking about ass words, right?
posted by Hildegarde at 2:18 PM on January 28, 2007


If you add the Irish into it, you are now referring - not to Britain - but to the United Kingdom. Or was I misinformed?

No, you're right. I was too busy being pompous to check my facts....
posted by Jon Mitchell at 2:29 PM on January 28, 2007


soyjoy, "fait accompli" is French

D'oh! Yeah, it is, isn't it? You'd think I could recognize that with a degree in French and all, but you'd be wrong.
posted by soyjoy at 2:44 PM on January 28, 2007


'antepenultimate' is, of course, my antepenultimate contribution to the valid sequipedalia. 'Sequipedalia' is the penultimate contribution, and 'penultimate' is the last.
posted by hexatron at 3:05 PM on January 28, 2007


My favorite pompous-ass shibboleth is the use of “um” to begin a reply to someone — usually when attempting to “correct” something the person said.
posted by Spire at 3:08 PM on January 28, 2007


Do you mean because it ought to be "grammatically incorrect" or because grammar shouldn't be determined as correct or incorrect to begin with?
The latter I would consider a little unfair, as there is the common usage of "does not conform to current norms of sentence structure"


See, that's a perfectly natural attitude to take if it's not your technical term. In linguistics, the grammar of a language is the rules by which it operates, which are determined by analyzing the language itself as used by native speakers, not by looking into a "grammar book" (such books, after all, don't exist for the vast majority of the earth's languages). Something is ungrammatical if, and only if, it is not a sentence that a native speaker would/could produce (ignoring semantic considerations, which is why Chomsky chose that damn "colorless green ideas" sentence). The book are green is ungrammatical; I ain't coming irregardless is not. You may not like the latter, it may be unshaven and smelly and should be kicked out into the gutter from which it crawled, but it is a perfectly grammatical sentence.

Now, you talk about "common usage," and sure, as a linguist I have to accept common usage whether I like it or not. But ask yourself this: if ontological were (mis)used by the hoi polloi as commonly as grammatical, if you had to go to parties (or open up MetaFilter) and find yourself constantly exposed to babble like "Well, ontologically, I can't stand it..." or "Sorry, but that's just not ontological," I suspect you would be considerably less understanding and tolerant than you are about (un)grammatical.
posted by languagehat at 3:10 PM on January 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


I don't much ken what you folk are on about, but I don't rightly cotton to it.

Which is to say that pompous comes in flavors.
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:36 PM on January 28, 2007


languagehat writes "if ontological were (mis)used by the hoi polloi"

The irony, it burns.

Love ya, O Hat of Languages
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:54 PM on January 28, 2007


What l-hat said. Especially the part about ungrammatical (see, e.g, wh-islands) vs. poor grammar (e.g., I on this website).
posted by dios at 4:13 PM on January 28, 2007


""Well, ontologically, I can't stand it..." or "Sorry, but that's just not ontological," I suspect you would be considerably less understanding and tolerant than you are about (un)grammatical."

I want to go to those parties.
posted by klangklangston at 4:16 PM on January 28, 2007


but it is a perfectly grammatical sentence.

I suppose that's why I differentiated "grammatical" from "grammatically correct" as "grammatical" seems to me to convey "having a structure" and "grammatically correct" seems to convey "conforming to the expected structure". So if someone used "grammatical" to mean "grammatically correct" I would think it a somewhat clumsy choice, but if they said "grammatically correct" I would interpret it within the context of expected rules (just as people's moral judgments don't necessitate a discussion of ethical normativity). But I suppose one could say "grammatically formal" or something like that.

if ontological were (mis)used by the hoi polloi as commonly as grammatical, if you had to go to parties (or open up MetaFilter) and find yourself constantly exposed to babble like "Well, ontologically, I can't stand it..." or "Sorry, but that's just not ontological," I suspect you would be considerably less understanding and tolerant

honestly, I think I would just be very confused! But I'm sure there are words that I think are misused, so in the broader sense I take your point.

Or perhaps only you are feeling these slight differences.

I do think communication is complicated and that there may well be different interpretations of the same terms along the way, but I think the difference between a word and a phrase still has a pretty broadly understood significance (at least in english). When you use "instead" you're speaking of the overall action, while using a preposition and a noun describes the distinct relationship of the subjects of the sentence.

As bugbread's example illustrates, you call attention to the replacement (I had to replace beer with wine because they didn't have beer) whereas speaking of the action overall you are not calling attention to that relation (this for that) but just describing the entire event. Using "instead" opposes the two actions (I bought beer vs. I bought wine, which points attention to the action I took, & hence implies my decision) while in lieu opposes two objects (beer vs wine, which points attention to the thing itself, & hence implies its availability)

While I think that not everyone is concerned with such little details of language, I also think that the people who do notice nuances tend to agree on what they are (not always, of course, but more than random chance would dictate).
posted by mdn at 4:22 PM on January 28, 2007


signal: "Ontology is not "things", but rather the study of being. Ontological is a relation to being or its study...[Other stuff about how I'm really dumb]"

I was going to say nasty things about your ignorance of contemporary metaphysics and/or analytic philosophy in general, but it looks like mdn already has my back.

Kwine: "It's true that metaphysicians never say anything worth saying, but I don't think that's relevant..."

mdn: "it seems to me it's exactly relevant - you're saying, regular people don't need to discuss metaphysics, so the word is pointless."

You're absolutely right, mdn; I was making an ill-conceived joke, which is a special talent of mine. I like metaphysicians; they're very smart and they'd better be, because the problems that they work on are very hard. The thrust of the "humor" was supposed to be that the problems are so hard that they seem like they're spinning their wheels a lot of the time. Take temporary intrinsic properties. How do we explain that a candle can be straight, and then later, after it melts a little, the same candle can be bent? Seems pretty straightforward, but as it turns out, pretty much no one agrees-there are four or five views that are entrenched like World War I.
posted by Kwine at 4:44 PM on January 28, 2007


You're absolutely right, mdn; I was making an ill-conceived joke,

ah, didn't see that 'kwine' might be a reference to willard :). I make the same semi self deprecating, semi-joke pretty regularly myself... while metaphysics may be wheel-spinning, at least I find it interesting, and since I have a bit of an existentialist approach to the whole "meaning of life" thing, I don't consider it a 'waste of time.'
posted by mdn at 5:12 PM on January 28, 2007


The irony, it burns.

I love using "the hoi polloi" and watching the lovers of correctness twitch!
posted by languagehat at 5:48 PM on January 28, 2007


"Enough," said Spock, "of your flails of existential irration; on to logical matters."
posted by cortex at 6:16 PM on January 28, 2007


Trying to work out what ontology means has been an spasmodic hobby of mine for some time.
posted by MetaMonkey at 6:19 PM on January 28, 2007


Your an idoit.
posted by LordSludge at 6:39 PM on January 28, 2007


I used the word exacerbate and my friend stopped me to ask what that meant. I said it meant the subject of the story had made the situation worse. My friend said "well why didn't you just say he made it worse then?" This is the point at which I decided my friend was a moron.

Liz: It's just that with Ed here, it's no wonder I always bring my flatmates out, and then that only exacerbates things.
Shaun: What you mean?
Liz: Well, you guys hardly get on, do you?
Shaun: No... what does 'exacerbate' mean?
posted by supercrayon at 7:02 PM on January 28, 2007


Worst PAW ever: "myriad," the pretentious idiot's "many." Who the hell ever says this in normal conversation? And it seems to be getting more common.

Every time I see this word in print I want to slug someone.
posted by gottabefunky at 7:18 PM on January 28, 2007


Yeah, but by that token I'd say goddam noun-myriad is the idiotic idiot's adjective-myriad. We don't need more direct functional replacements of "bunch", you dickchokes! Garr!

*masticates scenery*
posted by cortex at 7:28 PM on January 28, 2007


He lost me when he dismissed "proactive" as non-pompous. And tsuris? Oy vey. As Mr. Zombie said - Yiddish is never pompous.
posted by deborah at 8:02 PM on January 28, 2007


theres a place for his post and I was entertained by it.
and in many situations would agree (but its not whether you do it but where and when that will make a pompous ass of you) . Usually good communication is that which a lot of people will get right away.
What ever happend to that ruddy stuffed shirt guy on TV that used to be one of the original political pundits ? who made big owl eyes to intimidate his guests? come on you know who Im talking about ...reminds me of him.
Kings English, the Canon, Us vs. Them, Our Kind ..etc... It never works.
anyway.... "Car hole" instead of French sounding "garage"..Im for it. LOL
posted by celerystick at 10:35 PM on January 28, 2007


I'm finding that "burgle" is a "back-formation" from "burglarize", which is an "Americanism".

Anyway.

"Every time I see this word in print I want to slug someone."

And what do you do when you hear the word "culture"?
posted by davy at 10:44 PM on January 28, 2007


"I love using 'the hoi polloi' and watching the lovers of correctness twitch!"

"Kai su, teknon?" (Or wouldst thou prefer that in some other version of 639?)
posted by davy at 11:20 PM on January 28, 2007


"ετ τψ, βρυτε?"
posted by davy at 11:37 PM on January 28, 2007


Ctrl+F The Decemberists nothing? hey, I get to make a joke!
posted by CeruleanZero at 11:46 PM on January 28, 2007


I find it interesting that the most consistent defender of pomp in this thread is also one of "those" who use a lot of "quote" marks around "ordinary expressions".
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:53 AM on January 29, 2007


That's a psi, not an upsilon, Davy.

I like that this essentially rather bobbins website has inspired not only stout and well-deserved (condign, natch) protection of ten-dollar words, but also further opportunities for entirely other forms of arguable pomposity. "By the hoi polloi" being the obvious one; clearly, the correctly pompous usage here is "by tois pollois".

Incidentally, on "British" - "Britain" is an informal abbreviation both of "Great Britain" and "the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" - so, it can refer to the geographical entity called Great Britain, the island of the British Isles containing England, Scotland and Wales, or the political entity called the United Kingdom of kai ta loipa, which also includes Northern Ireland. Ireland itself is one of the British Isles, but you'd probably be best not calling a citizen of the Republic of Ireland British. Actually, that might be good advice for the casual visitor to Northern Ireland as well.
posted by tannhauser at 4:32 AM on January 29, 2007


They really need to get "swingeing" in there.
posted by bifter at 6:03 AM on January 29, 2007


Nice words in this thread. We do not eschew sesquipedalianism.
posted by asok at 6:28 AM on January 29, 2007


the political entity called the United Kingdom of kai ta loipa

I believe you mean the political entity called the United Kingdom of kai ton loipon. (For davy: και τών λοιπών. [Sorry, it's hard to find a good circumflex these monotonic days.])
posted by languagehat at 7:00 AM on January 29, 2007


This list is sadly incomplete without the inclusion of the word "paradigm."
posted by CheeseburgerBrown at 7:49 AM on January 29, 2007


And what do you do when you hear the word "culture"?

I find it interesting that the most consistent defender of pomp in this thread is also one of "those" who use a lot of "quote" marks around "ordinary expressions".


Quote marks are only for unusual expressions?

And what do you do when you hear the word culture?
posted by dreamsign at 9:15 AM on January 29, 2007


What an idiotic website.
posted by OmieWise at 9:23 AM on January 29, 2007


"And what do you do when you hear the word culture?"

Perhaps I should consider it a 'waste of time.'
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:16 AM on January 29, 2007


gottabefunky: I cautiously raise my hand as somone who might well use myriad in normal conversation. I am British. These facts may or may not be related.
posted by jaduncan at 10:43 AM on January 29, 2007


I have been known to use "myriad" in normal conversation, about fonts.
posted by signal at 11:07 AM on January 29, 2007


Awww, snap. Languagehat broke out the Unicode on your ass.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:10 AM on January 29, 2007


I had somebody tell me I was full of shit for using "zeitgeist".

I then said "Okay, I guess I could say "status quo" if I wanted to lose a little meaning." Again, I was accused being pompous.

From now on I'm just gonna say "all that stuff and shit that goes on in like, you know, society".
posted by tehloki at 11:32 AM on January 29, 2007


I find it interesting that the most consistent defender of pomp in this thread is also one of "those" who use a lot of "quote" marks around "ordinary expressions".

Perhaps I should consider it a 'waste of time.'


waiwaiwait, you're saying I'm the most consistent defender of pomp?
apologies for all the quote marks; my intention was to distinguish concepts, not to discredit phrases... I didn't realize it would come across looking like I was saying "as if that was a real thing"... I could have spoken about grammatical and grammatically correct without using quote marks, but my concern was distinguishing the word/phrase from the idea to which it refers (ie, they might be understood as active relayers of meaning within the context of the sentence rather than static symbols I was comparing).

As for why I used quotes with "meaning of life", that was sort of a joke, I guess, though I could have used dashes or probably nothing at all & it would have come across. So perhaps I don't have a good excuse there.

Still, I'm surprised you think I'm pompous. I usually think of myself as accessible & easy going, and like I said above, a)we all disagree about which words are "fancy" (okay, fancy, no quotes... sorry) because so much depends on the context of our learning them, and b)it is possible that many words you consider unnecessarily fancy are chosen not in order to impress but in order to express - to provide more precision in the articulation of the thought, rather than any concern with sounding smarter than you are.

As I said, I don't think using words you don't really understand usually looks very good, and I'm made more anxious by dumb things I said when I thought I had a better grasp on something than I really did, than I am by generic things I said because I didn't have enough big words to create a pretense of expertise. IOW, I think I will usually err on the side of trimming technical language unless I honestly think it contributes to the point.
posted by mdn at 11:47 AM on January 29, 2007


I just have two rules:

1. Never use a big word when a diminutive word will do.

2. Avoid cliches like the plague!

Also, I believe it's Skip to MY Lou.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:48 PM on January 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


"I then said "Okay, I guess I could say "status quo" if I wanted to lose a little meaning." Again, I was accused being pompous."

Your friend should have pointed out that if you meant "status quo," you should say that. If you want the English equivalent, it's "spirit of the times."
Though I do believe in using Zeitgeist.
posted by klangklangston at 1:23 PM on January 29, 2007


Still, I'm surprised you think I'm pompous. I usually think of myself as accessible & easy going

You, personally, probably are accessible & easy going. Your writing here, not accessible. I'm sorry if I excited you to the point that you started using those annoying period groups between thoughts, and forgetting capitalization. After the first graph of your last comment, you seem to have settled down; at least you stopped doing those two things.

Figuring out why somebody used in lieu and not instead is usually more effort than I like to expend, especially when I don't acknowledge any real difference. I guess you could say I don't recognize a lot of the subtle differences you value.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:52 PM on January 29, 2007


I guess you could say I don't recognize a lot of the subtle differences you value.

And therefore you're OK and she's pompous. Right. I'll bet you also think modern art is a hoax and any five-year-old could do better.
posted by languagehat at 3:09 PM on January 29, 2007


Well, they sure work cheaper, so if we want to talk bang for your buck...
posted by cortex at 3:23 PM on January 29, 2007


hat, I didn't say anywhere that mdn is pompous. I said that he (or she) is a defender of pomp. I also haven't expressed an opinion on modern art here or anywhere else. You're having a lot of fun putting words in my mouth, but the ones you choose are more of a reflection on you than on me.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:50 PM on January 29, 2007


Fair enough, and I do have too much fun being rhetorical sometimes. Snark retracted.
posted by languagehat at 4:58 PM on January 29, 2007


This is why you never get your flameout, hat. You're not a bad enough role model.
posted by cortex at 5:03 PM on January 29, 2007


> "ετ τψ, βρυτε?"

>> "That's a psi, not an upsilon, Davy."

Uh, yeah. Being pedanticly deficient I ain't actually memoried the Greek alphabet: that's what the virtual keyboard program xvkbd gave me at 2:37 A.M. when I'd been drinking.

As xvkbd starts it gives me an error message reading as follows:

"xvkbd: Mode_switch not available as a modifier
xvkbd: although ISO_Level3_Shift is used instead, AltGr may not work correctly
."

That seems to have something to do with it, though I don't understand that enough to get much from it. I can say that the virtual keyboard I see here doesn't look Greek to me -- thee's no thorn even in Modern Greek, is there? -- and I ain't quite sure what to do about any of this. I'm accepting suggestions if anybody wants to help me seem more impressive of intellect than I actually am; is there a configuration and/setting for xvkbd, or another X11 onscreen "international" keyboard, that'll show and render Greek correctly? There are plenty of times when being able to whip out a proper upsilon would come in handy.
posted by davy at 5:04 PM on January 29, 2007


POMP IS A HOAX, ANY FIVE YEAR OLD COULD DO POMP
posted by Kwine at 5:06 PM on January 29, 2007


davy: Would this help? That's where I get my Greek.
posted by languagehat at 5:23 PM on January 29, 2007


KG, I don't see anything so inaccessible about mdn's writing here. It's recognizing subtle differences that separates smart people from ignorami. (Although it also helps to have adequate tools and some proficiency in using them.)

And languagehat, any 5 year old who's not put together like a figure from modern art could do better, yes; I still can't but marvel that anyone ever paid for a Pollock or a Modrian. And thanks, that might help -- assuming I can learn to tell a psi from an upsilon without a cheat sheet. Nor did think to check ψάρια της Βαβέλ, but that again only makes up for half my myriad deficiencies.

And Kwine, I think you mean any five year old could do pimp.
posted by davy at 5:38 PM on January 29, 2007


You, personally, probably are accessible & easy going. Your writing here, not accessible.

well, like any way too self-obsessed nerdy type, I'm always interested in how I seem to other people, so thanks for the feedback. That is actually interesting to know because I usually think I am quite clear.

I'm sorry if I excited you to the point that you started using those annoying period groups between thoughts, and forgetting capitalization.

heh, yeah, I'm prone to ellipses and small letters because in my head it is more conversational. Actually MeFi has addressed this before, so I've since made an effort to construct more standard paragraphs. But everyone slips up.

Figuring out why somebody used in lieu and not instead is usually more effort than I like to expend,

One thing I find so interesting about language is that understanding a difference does not necessitate that you understand the cause or underlying structure that creates that difference. I felt that "in lieu" and "instead" did not completely cover the same territory, and became interested in explaining why. After some thought I was pretty satisfied with a possible theory, but it wasn't as if I had to decode the statement in order to sense the meaning. We learned to use language long before we started to study its structure - we named things nouns and prepositions after having gotten used to the way in which those words convey things slightly differently from adverbs, etc.* So a person could subconsciously, or anyway not completely explicitly, have a sense of a subtle distinction that a certain word choice makes, but never explore the reason/s it comes across that way.

Now, we also very likely miscommunicate a lot of the time due to just the same kinds of small disagreements in connotations - my point was really just about the intentions of people who notice such details. You can certainly consider me annoying, and say I defend annoying language, but if I have no interest in raising my social status by impressing people with an embiggened vocabulary, are we talking about pomposity anymore? Maybe I just actually like the words for their usefulness.

* (which is why the whole ungrammatical / grammatically incorrect thing came up - of course I agree grammar is emergent, but there is secondarily the question of whether one can claim grammar is correct or incorrect, which seems to be a useful distinction in some cases. But as I said a solution could be to come up with a term that deferred to normativity rather than implying natural or absolute "rightness"). (was that too pompous?)
posted by mdn at 6:02 PM on January 29, 2007


Ah. It was a Mondrian I'm amazed is worth money. Though I might mean a Mondriaan, then maybe he only got "amazing" after he saw Paree.
posted by davy at 6:53 PM on January 29, 2007


I'm always interested in how I seem to other people, so thanks for the feedback.

For what it's worth, mdn, I find your writing here very accessible (if by "accessible" people mean "easy to read and understand")... I enjoy everyone's writing, and that includes the whole spectrum, from illiterate babbler to pompous ass, because I'm fascinated by words and their meanings, and how people use them to communicate (especially online without the benefit of body language and subtle nuances in tone)... If we all talked the same or typed the same, this would be a dull place...

Oh, and, as far as anyone complaining that you used ellipses... I am sooo guilty of that infraction (as you can see)... I was cautioned about it awhile back, and I try to curb it when I think about it, but I tend to type conversationally online and this is the way it comes out. *shrug*
posted by amyms at 7:08 PM on January 29, 2007


I really dislike the thrust of the author's argument. What he is proposing is tantamount (yes, I know, and I used the word intentionally) to saying: "Let's all speak so that the most ignorant of ignoramuses will understand us." I don't like the attempts to dumb down the language so that lazy people who won't read even if their lives depended on it will feel comfortable with their limited vocabulary. If someone doesn't understand the meaning of a word, he or she should ask what it means. If they feel too embarrassed to ask, they should look it up in a dictionary. If they are too lazy to expand their knowledge, they should excuse themselves from intelligent conversations and go watch Gilligans' Island re-runs.
posted by RayOrama at 9:58 PM on January 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


davy - my dictionaries list the plural of ignoramus as ignoramuses. Using a Latin construction for an English term is, oh - what's that word? I also disagree with your assertion that recognizing subtle differences separates smart people from ignoramuses. That distinction is based on whether you take responsibility for your errors, or blame the software you're using.

mdn - please don't take anything I wrote as a personal judgment. I don't find you annoying, nor do I necessarily think you're pompous. (I think pomposity is much easier to achieve when speaking than when writing.) Some of the words you find useful are not ones I do.

Languagehat - I think cortex is right. I expected a more spirited exchange. Thanks for letting us know where you 'get your Greek,' though.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:50 AM on January 30, 2007


"I still can't but marvel that anyone ever paid for a Pollock or a Modrian."

Then you've never stood in a room with one, or are an idiot. Or both; you don't have to choose right now.
posted by klangklangston at 5:45 AM on January 30, 2007


Oooh, metapedantry!

On "ignoramus", isn't the point that ignorami assumes that it is a second-declension masculine singular noun in Latin, which would thus become ignorami in the plural, whereas it is in fact the transposition into English of the first person plural verb ignoramus to make an idiomatic noun describing somebody who says "we do not know" a lot? That is, not pompous but just incorrect, or itself idiomatic.

And thanks for the puzzle, languagehat - most interesting. I think, ultimately, that your correction is inexact. One would say perhaps "the United Kingdom of των λοιπων", or just "the United Kingdom των λοιπων". The και, however, changes that. Of course, since a native speaker wouldn't be welding English to Ancient Greek in the first place, there's an extent to which the user is chooser.

Which should not blind us to the fact, however, that I have just nitpicked your nitpick of a phrase I used after nitpicking your deliberate solecism. We are probably causing the founder of "Pompous Ass Words" a migraine from here.
posted by tannhauser at 6:04 AM on January 30, 2007


I have just nitpicked your nitpick of a phrase I used after nitpicking your deliberate solecism.

As is only appropriate in this thread.

We are probably causing the founder of "Pompous Ass Words" a migraine from here.

*high-fives tannhauser*
posted by languagehat at 7:32 AM on January 30, 2007


Calvin: "As my artist's statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance."
Hobbes: "You misspelled Weltanschauung."

I've always been irritated by Anne Rice's use of the word "Preternatural" in her Vampire Chronicles.

I agree, but in this case I think it's her overuse of the word. "Preternatural" would be fine if it appeared five, even ten times in a book about vampires. Rice seems to use it twice on every page.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:19 AM on January 30, 2007


If we all talked the same or typed the same, this would be a dull place...

Yeah, I like this about metafilter, too, especially when I get to know certain voices and can tell before seeing the name whose post it is (or anyway, once I notice the name, have an opinion about how it is or isn't someone I'd have expected).

mdn - please don't take anything I wrote as a personal judgment. I don't find you annoying, nor do I necessarily think you're pompous. (I think pomposity is much easier to achieve when speaking than when writing.) Some of the words you find useful are not ones I do.

No worries - I realize we all perceive each other a little differently. I have considered that I might come across as boring or analytic or impersonal but I hadn't really thought of pompous as a potential quality that might be associated with me, I suppose because I think of "pompous" as a kind of empty grandiosity. Though on reflection, my fascination with useless details could be seen as giving too much attention to something very unimportant, which could be construed as a kind of empty grandiosity. But see, here I am already analyzing minutiae when you were just making a friendly comment :).
posted by mdn at 3:44 PM on January 31, 2007


I really like the word "Preternatural". I'm going to write a song called "Preternatural". I don't know what it will be about, but maybe Alanis Morissette can help me out.
posted by LordSludge at 7:05 AM on February 1, 2007


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