Some words are just so pretentious…
Zeitgeist, oeuvre, meme, and thought leader are just some of the words that I’ve been frequently coming across.
Now, that word “meme” is a pretty new one to me… For some reason, I’ve been bumping into the word a lot recently. I must have come across the term, oh… 8 or 9 years ago reading Dawkins’ Selfish Gene in a college animal behavior class. My professor was obsessesd with Hymenoptera… Especially wasps. Obsessed, I tell you! Which is fine. To each her own. It’s great being passionate about what you do! I’m trying to find the same passion. I just did not share that enthusiasm in watching hours – HOURS! – of wasp nesting behavior! As memory serves, Dawkins’ book mainly talked about the interactions among Hymenoptera – you know… Ants, bees, wasps… I need to pull that book out of my old boxes to reread it… I sold the textbook from that class, but that book was a keeper. But… My point is… “Meme” is a term that’s been around a while but I’m only noticing it now! Ah, it’s funny when things come full circle.
A current favorite word that I use is “penultimate.” I actually use that a lot! I figure, if I was forced to learn it (for the GRE), I might as well use it! Even if I feel a bit pretentious each and every time I use it…
Another word in my Kaplan GRE book, “coven.” Now why do I need to know the term for a gathering of witches? Why is that part of an educated vocabulary? I guess I need to know what to call them when I see them doing incantations around a tree – or anywhere else. Now to figure a way to slip “coven” into my everyday conversations… Any suggestions? But yay! It’s there in my toolkit of words! Ready to be pulled out and used when needed!
Using a broad vocabulary… Pretentious? Or erudite? Or both?
Well, perhaps the better word is “learned.” Or “educated.” Though of course both are synonyms of the word “erudite”! Shades of gray… Shades of gray…
Now, those shades of gray… Individuals connote their own definitions – either wrongly or rightly – on words based on their own experiences with the word or with related words… That’s only natural.
One random example from me, “visceral.” If you use that word in a conversation with me, I’ll always imagine our cat, Mouser. No, not a pet cat… A cat that my lab partner and I spent most of a high school anatomy course dissecting… We spent countless hours examining many visceral surfaces… I’ve never looked at chicken the same way again since then… And the word “visceral” always conjures up – like a coven chanting their incantations! – this image of poor Mouser’s innards. 🙁 Yes, even though high school was half a lifetime ago, this “visceral word” triggers a very visceral response, like a bell to Pavlov’s dog.
My verbal GRE score actually makes me feel like I have an “educated” vocabulary even though I know it’s… okay. Not great, but not shabby either. Yes, I’m cynical about standardized test scores. If you know me, you know I’m not well read! So, my vocab is not as great as it should be.
I suppose that’s why I write about jabberwocky – nonsense! And I suppose that’s why I pull some of my allusions from such extolled and esteemed literary classics as Alice in Wonderland (“jabberwocky”) and Pooh Bear (“tut-tut, it looks like rain”)!