wordsI get so giddy about finding words unknown to me. But lately, I’ve added few new words to my vocabulary, having discovered them in reading, words like Eschatology (the end times) and Atavistic (ancient/ancestral).

Less about any vast vocabulary I may have and more about the notion that we use the same words over and over again, I rarely come across words I don’t know anymore.

Even SEO (internet search engine optimization) nods to the Flesch-Kincaid readability levels, with a formula of syllables per word that gives high scores for online writing geared toward the 11-year-old student level. Yes, 11-year old. What’s happened to us?

Little kids gravitate toward words. They especially gravitate toward “bad” words, and I think this is because they hear the same kinds of words again and again, and when a “bad” word slips in front of them, they latch on to the newness. I remember a conversation with my mom when I was little, whispering a “bad” word to her that I’d heard somewhere. I knew enough to whisper it, to give it reverence in a way, because I had no idea what it meant. Instead of her usual encouraging self, my mom got mad when she heard the word I whispered. I was forbidden to say it. I obeyed. And I marveled at the power of that mysterious word. (I still marvel.)

On the one hand, we’re a world of communicators who need to be able to understand one another. On the other, we’re a world of learners who have an obligation to impart what we know and build one another up. One could certainly argue that point, but we’re all sharing this planet together, so, shall we share it with fools or with comrades? (Incidentally, look at how beautifully the French spell the word camaraderie, the root for our English comrades. You can almost hear the twang in the English spelling. I find that funny.)

Certainly if we have to define everything we say, we’re doing it wrong. Bogging down is not communicating. But pandering to the 11-year-old learning level is a giant step backward, in my opinion, especially in this era where we have fingertip ability to find definitions and can easily expand our knowledge of the world around us through words and concepts. Besides, with proper context, lesser known words and phrases make perfect sense anyway.

Thus I say: don’t sit on your words. Pull them from your back pocket and toss them into circulation. It’s time to indulge, once again, in the power of well-chosen words.

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Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing

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