How to Use Pretentious Words

Many careful writers simply refuse to use pretentious words such as myriads, plethora, utilize, and advent. Nevertheless, even these poisonous slugs have their place.

They just need an earthy (or silly) antidote. This page suggests a few examples. I am sure that you can think of many more.

Myriads and Myriads

"Over the years, myriads of so-called 'Management Techniques' have hit the crapper."

Here the basic 'earthy antidote' is at work. On other occasions, alliteration may suffice to justify the use of a pretentious word.

"Of course we received myriads of manuscripts from would-be Hunter Thompsons who never met a dirty word they didn't like."

Plethoras and Plethoras

I am sure that P. G. Woodhouse would have no problem with a chapter titled: A Plethora of Purloined Pussy Cats.

Again, alliteration helps. As a general guide, it's hard to be pretentious and silly at the same time.

Utilize and Utilize

"Did you count how many times that stuffed shirt said 'utilize'?"

Well, I know this example is not entirely fair since "utilize" hides behind quotes. Nevertheless, it is one of the few sentences I can imagine where "utilize" is acceptable.

"Utilize" is such a deeply defective word that it is hard to find an honest home for it outside of quotes.

"Since the advent of modern" ...

There's a nice little piece on moon names that loved until I came upon the sentence:

"They're really all the same moon, but long before the advent of modern calendars people named the Full Moons of a year to keep track of time."

To me advent says here, "Hey reader, I've just lost contact with my authentic voice. Do you mind?"

Well, yes, I do. Please go back and scratch out advent of, and I will feel much better.

The word advent simply cannot carry its weight, except when used in its capitalized sense.

Only an old boyfriend could object to the sentence "She plans to marry in the week following Advent."

Have a Contribution?

If you have a favorite antidote to an otherwise soul-robbing word or phrase, please pass it along. I'll post it with attribution.

Shane Jensen offers one that I like: ``How are we supposed to actualize our synergy if we can't utilize pretentious words?!?"

HCL adds "juxtapose" and "juxtaposition" to the no-fly list. Peas in a pod are not juxtaposed, and one should not treat artworks (or ideas) much differently.

BTW, in my web pages I take considerable liberty with the use of bold and italic fonts. Certainly, in a book or a paper, I would stick much closer to the publisher's conventions.

"Short words are best and the old words when short are best of all." --- sometimes attributed to Winston Churchill, though I can't find the source.

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