Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Must finish this post...it has been languishing for weeks! But if I ever needed proof of my own nerdiness, this post will be it.

I am a word-nerd; kinda like a food-nerd, but with words. I like finding *exactly* the right word that conveys just what I mean, down to the correctly shaded subtleties. Not any word will always do. Sometimes the word I want comes bounding into my head, rolling blithely off my tongue, while other times I know it's out there, but I can't for the life of me bring it forth.

There is a certain amount of ridicule associated with being a word-nerd, gentle fun poked at having a large vocabulary. Many people think I use big words just to show off how smart I am (hahaha...if they *only* knew -- definitely one of those "fake it until you make it" instances, when it comes to me being overly smart). But really, it's not that at all. It's the communication of the thing that is important to me...the getting it *just* right.

I have some favorite words...heuristic, even though I have to re-look it up in the dictionary every so often to remind myself of what it actually does mean -- I'm still not sure I've got a good handle on it; prevaricate, because it's not quite lying, more stretching the truth like a fish story...followed closely by obfuscate; perspicacity, I used this once in an OER (Officer Evaluation Report) for one of my JOs and was talking to the Afloat Assignment Officer about it -- he suggested I might use another word for clarity's sake...oh, the *irony!*; mercurial, peckish, pulchritude, fissure, and squidgey.

I think my word-nerdiness started pretty early on. One of my favorite authors as a kid, and still really today, was James Herriott, who told stories about his life as a World War II era Yorkshire vet sharing a countryside practice, working with small farmers, townspeople and the occasional horsey member of the aristocracy. What eleven-year-old really should know what "sonorous" is? Most of the time reading his books, I could figure out the meaning of the word by the context of the story...but I think I actually had to look that one up. L. M. Montgomery also contributed to my vocabulary; Anne of Green Gables was awesome with big words!

And then there was "The Jabberwocky," by Lewis Carroll. I love that poem. I chose to memorize it junior year of high school instead of the Bible verses (yes, I did go to public school) being taught as literature. "Twas brillig and the slithy toves / Did gyre and gimble in the wabe. / All mimsy were the borogoves / And the mome wraths outgrabe." How fantastic is that?! It totally paints a picture using words that aren't real words.

So all this background only serves the purpose of setting the stage for describing a little bit of fun at the office. I think it tells *a lot* about the caliber of people I work with that I can honestly say that a "Word of the Day" game is cause for hilarity and morale. There's really two main players of this WOD game, me and EC, one of the other reviewers. We leave sticky notes on each other's laptops in the morning with our choice for the day written down. The challenge is to use the word (correctly, of course) in a conversation or other communique sometime during the day. We've had some great words: polemic, banausic, obdurate (though that one has been grossly overused recently), phthsis.

I'm pretty sure EC is winning. He's worked extirpate into a Digest to the Vice Commandant, routinely includes WODs in emails, and even got a Jabberwocky word (yes, I gave him a sticky note one morning that said, "WOD: A JABBERWOCKY WORD." I had intended he make up a word defined by its context, like my own personal favorite, squidgey, but his use was So. Much. Better.) into an email to our Captain. Who knew that a vorpal blade could be used against a programmatic initiative with the same effectiveness as against the Jabberwocky himself?! The absolute final, Final, *FINAL* bonus round will be if one of us gets a WOD into the FY14 Congressional Justification...EC said he's already got one planted, so as long as it doesn't get edited out between now and the mid-February release of the President's Budget, he's definitely gonna skunk me. There's always FY15 though!

Today drove home one of the most important lessons about words that I'll ever learn, but seem to have to keep banging up against before I really get it: big, fancy words strung sweetly together mean *absolutely nothing,* and can in fact be deleterious, if you don't pay attention to what your audience is actually hearing.

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