(from the Daily Beast):
By Stefan Beck
William F. Buckley Jr.’s delight in using big words was hardly the most significant thing about him, but it nevertheless appeared front and center in the headline of his New York Times obituary: “Sesquipedalian Spark of the Right.” At times his “polysyllabic exuberance,” as the Times called it, got him into trouble. In a 1986 column, “I Am Lapidary But Not Eristic When I Use Big Words,” he recounted disputes with his editors over what qualified a word as too obscure for the common reader. Explaining the addition of a footnote defining “lapidary” to one of Buckley’s columns, Ed Williams, the associate editor of the Charlotte Observer, voiced a suspicion shared by many of Buckley’s critics: “(1) you like to show off, and (2) you take delight in irritating people.”
Of course Buckley liked to show off his vocabulary. “I do not,” he protested, “think of ‘lapidary’ as a word so unrecognizable as to interrupt the reading flow of the average college graduate.” Okay, but if you’re going to maintain that your vocabulary is precise but not ostentatious, you probably shouldn’t publish your own branded Word-a-Day Calendar. Still, I’ll take the vocab show-off over the man who expects me to be irritated by the chance to learn a new word. There was a time when interrupting one’s reading flow to look up a word meant taking out a dictionary the size of a tuba case, carefully turning page after page of onionskin, perhaps even looking through a magnifying glass. Now it means a few taps on a smartphone and, boom, you know something new. What’s not to like?
Unfortunately, cultural hostility to so-called big words has just penetrated to what may be their sanctum sanctorum: the SAT. CONTINUE READING HERE