Is it possible to take vocabulary expansion too far? In a piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Elizabeth Bernstein points out the situations where word-knowledge can work against you, making the point that "language junkies" might want to be careful lest they alienate people they're trying to impress, or just render themselves incomprehensible.
She quotes Ellen Jovin, co-founder of Syntaxis, a communication-skills training firm in New York, saying:
"When choosing your words...it's important to consider your motivation. If you are using $50 words to show off, and you know people will not understand them, then that is unkind and annoying, and they have a reason to react negatively." …
Be absolutely sure of the definition. "Misuse of big words is a disaster," she says. "You are not only a phony but you are bad at being a phony."
Just for fun, we've rounded up the potentially alienating words quoted in the Journal piece into a List for "Language Junkies." Whether you relish these words or think of them as ones to avoid, it's fun to look them over or add them your learning at Vocabulary.com and the Vocabulary.com app. (To quiz yourself on just the words on the list, select the practice tab on the list's page.)
And then let us know if you love a word that, like a tuxedo, you can only get to use on extremely special occasions.