Mugwumps and Lexicons

“I guess I should warn you, if I turn out to be particularly clear, you’ve probably misunderstood what I’ve said.”
Alan Greenspan

I have been endeavoring as of late to expand my vocabulary.  After writing over one hundred posts I am coming to a point in the road where I keep bumping into the same words over and over and I am discovering what my regular readers probably have already observed: my vocabulary is limited, quite limited and if I keep using the same words as “quite” and “great” all the time will never be great and that is quite true.

I find I have ideas that are of a certain nature or complexity to where it is difficult to convey them with my limitations. I liken this to an artist who paints with only a limited palate. The world is much too colorful to interpret with my measly set of 12 childhood watercolors.

I am mostly self-taught. I didn’t pay much attention in school the few times I went to class.  I graduated by being a really good test taker. I thought I was clever at the time. I know how much I missed out…

I’ve made up for my lack of formalized education with a lot of unformalized education. I have consumed many books on many subjects over a twenty year span, mostly non fiction with some Sci-Fi as a sort of side dressing. I think this has helped and hindered me as a writer. I have learned an array of knowledge in a wide variety of subjects. I have never been forced to pick just one field of study; I have gone merrily on my way with only my insatiable curiosity as a guide. I believe this gives me a unique overview that helps me see the bigger picture of everything and how it’s all connected.

However, non-fiction books can get pretty dry, their writers do not usually use extra words. Most are attempting to explain technical issues and many are learned people with umpteen degrees.  It is the rare gem of a writer that can convey reams of information with the style and grace of a talented wordsmith.

Although life has forced me to read a few of the “Classics”, I have generally avoided them like the plague.

The few literary influences I do have: Shakespeare, Seuss and Poe do make for an interesting mix but beyond my inventing of them, I need new words. I am bored with myself and need a shake up.

I’ve been reading word power books and the like, finding the odd tasty morsel here and there. I don’t have to tell any reader of the English language that there are a lot of odd words. I am earnest and I am learning. (I can feel my vocabulary swelling as I write this.)

I am no Logophobe and I am embracing my new-found Lexicology with an ebullience that is so ebullient that I am close to exploding with new words that I cannot wait to use!

Words such as mundungus, muzhik and mugwump!  And other beauties such as musth and moxibustion!  My mind is swimming with new shades and hues.

Just how I will fit bad-smelling tobacco, Russian peasants and a great man with a Chinese method of treating various conditions by burning an herbal mixture on parts of the body together with a male elephant or camel in a state of frenzy, is beyond me at the moment, but I’m sure it could make for some interesting but, perhaps confusing reading.

“Take two, they’re small…”

I would elucidate, however; it is not unambiguous to me. I beseech you, please do not cachinnate at my personage.

As long as everyone is on board with that…

This reminds me of a colorful character:  Federal Reserve Board chair Alan Greenspan and his famous, or should I say infamous “Greenspeak a carefully rehearsed cryptic language described as an “indecipherable, Delphic dialect” and ” a turgid dialect of English” that makes intentionally wordy, vague, and ambiguous statements.

“… And so you construct what we used to call Fed-speak….I would catch myself in the middle of a sentence. Then, instead of just stopping, I would continue on resolving the sentence in some obscure way which made it incomprehensible. But nobody was quite sure I wasn’t saying something profound when I wasn’t…”

(Greenspan in an interview with BusinessWeek in August 2012)

I could stand to be a little more like Greenspan, that colorful “mugwump”. I would know ALL the words and I would use every one in my quest to become the most successful writer of all time. HAHA!

(Stand back! I am mad with power, Wordpower!)

or should I say: Videte et Ego sum demens cum potestate, Verbum potentia!)

(By the way…I have also found Google translate!)

Sometimes words can get in the way of what you’re trying to say. Words can be distracting and detracting. I suppose there’s a fine line, Just like everything else.  Oh well, such is life!

Ĝis poste!

Strawberryindigo.

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27 thoughts on “Mugwumps and Lexicons

  1. Pingback: Mugwumps | Bell Book Candle

  2. I think following your curiosity is the best education possible! I enjoyed this romp through your new vocabulary words. Perhaps the Russian peasants smoked the bad smelling tobacco and as a result require moxibustion while riding a frenzied camel being charged by a maurading male elephant?????

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  3. The choice of words; even here, making a comment can sometimes be difficult. I wish I had the aswers but it’s nice to know there are many others out there also on the journey of words! I look forward to more of your musings, many thanks strawberryindigo.

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  4. There are two ways to make readers lose interest. One is by the overuse of obscure and arcane words. The occasional word interspersed within a sentence is not a problem, especially if the context offers up a clue. Even if not, looking up a word these days is super-easy (highlight, right-click, search Google), so it is not too disruptive.

    Sometimes I can tell people go out of their way to use abstruse words . . . because they are not using the most accepted definition of the word, but rather the second or third definition. String a number of words together like that, and the intended meaning can be lost to confusion, and eventual apathy.

    Sometimes the official definitions are off-base (for example, sanguine – the root word refers to blood; the online dictionary has “cheerfully optimistic” as the first definition).

    But there is one other way, and it works much better than using odd words, at least for me.

    It’s where people try and write stuff in such a way as to lend it a perceived air of elegance, obliquely hinting at concepts by skirting the very thing they want to say. Some old writing, especially academic, travels downs those paths, but in those instances it was a deliberate attempt by the writer to exclude the “riff-raft” as it were.

    Current writers are purposefully recondite, twisting ordinary words into convoluted paths that leave this reader dazed and confused. I tend not to read them. I wanted to offer up an example, but it’s really not in my nature.

    One thing I am not, is terse. Conciseness has never been part of my repertoire; eschewing breviloquence is my norm. Laconic is definitively not in my vocabulary . . . probably because my phonic parlance is marked by intervals of stuttering. Writing, on the other hand flows freely.

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    • Hey Disperser: What you say in your not so terse way speaks to me…I was trying to hint at what you say outright. I like that about you.
      I also am verbally challenged although in a different way. Writing has always been my preferred way of communication.
      Thanks for the input.

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  5. I got a bit lost in the middle there! 😉 Personally I find your vocabulary perfectly sufficient, so hope your future posts don’t get me reaching for the Thesaurus! LOL!

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