Sunday, February 15, 2015

KISS, More Than a Rock Band

There’s a KISS expression that writers should keep in mind when trying to get their words understood by their reading audience. The four letters stand for, “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” The comma is placed where it is to indicate that the writer should write for the correct level for his or her audience, not to impress anyone with their command of the language.

What’s Your Point?

You may have had the misfortune of trying to endure someone trying to impress you, or to verbally lord over you, with his or her language proficiency. They do so by stuffing their conversation with verbiage they have accumulated, but have never had an opportunity to use. You can excuse yourself by using any of several false pretenses, including, “I suddenly have a splitting headache, and wonder what brought it on.  Please excuse me, I need to get some fresh air.”

This allows you to walk outside and away from the bore, or boor. However, you must be sure that you can endure whatever weather awaits you outside. I just got off the phone with a friend in Detroit who told me that the wind chill factor was 20 below.

“Let Me Make Myself Perfectly Clear”

Richard Milhous Nixon used that expression whenever he believed that he was misunderstood (or caught lying), and Milhous wanted to defend or change his thinking or actions.

That expression is also the antithesis displayed in two recent examples of people expressing themselves in a muddled way.

When a newspaper reporter asked a woman what she thought about a recent, covered-up police scandal, she was quoted as saying, “It’s been an oligarchy sustained by obfuscation. After this debacle, who wouldn’t dismiss Kensington as a tony, dystopic enclave?” She continued,  “This egregious absence of oversight has made us the punch line.” Perhaps her quote furthers that impression.

Write it Right

While I have a decent command of the English language, I continue to learn as I read. I have a three-inch by five-inch spiral notebook that I started perhaps forty years ago, and whenever I find a word I don’t understand, I look it up and then write it down in my notebook alphabetically. I just looked and counted sixty-five such words, but that was only words that began with the letter “A.”

In the latest issue of The Forward, a weekly Jewish newspaper, a book was reviewed and the reviewer not only tried to impress the audience with his command of the English language, but also disagreed with any point the book’s author had made that was different from the reviewer’s.

You may have known and understood all of the following words, however, I confess that I did not know them all, and wonder if other readers did.

The words included, among others,  “hagiography,” “eponymous,” “mythopoeic,” “arcana,” and “hegemony.”

Those of you who know them all, please put them in one sentence that makes sense, and send your entry to us. for a possible prize. A prestigious, punctilious, prescient, perfervid, pragmatic, perspicacious panel will carefully review all entries.

There are still sixty-six “P” letter words that I have defined in my spiral book that I haven’t used. I’ll try to use some of them in my next post.