I recently used the word “titillating” in conversation with my daughter. I didn’t use it to intimidate or sound impressive. Indeed, I cast around my mind for the exact word to use that would most accurately describe what I meant. My daughter hates it when I use words like this. She told me that, “Everyone hates it when you use words like that. It doesn’t make you sound smart.” (Insert snarky tone of voice here)
She has no love for words. She believes in using the smallest word possible in every situation. She does not care to expand her vocabulary or to speak with words that more accurately convey her meaning.
It saddens me a little that my daughter will miss out on the nuances of our language. There will be things that she will not completely understand because of her refusal to expand her knowledge. I have hope for my son, however. He seems to have an affinity for languages which will serve to expand his vocabulary.
When I was growing up and came across a word I didn’t know or understand my father would tell me to look it up. We had a HUGE dictionary and I looked things up. I still look things up if I don’t completely understand. We have several dictionaries to choose from in our home and there is always dictionary.com to use if you don’t want to do the actual work of flipping dictionary pages. If I am reading on my kindle I can simply highlight the word and get an immediate definition. Neither of my youngest two children likes to look things up. They would rather skip something without understanding than take the couple of minutes that looking up a word entails. I guess that looking up a word does not fulfill their immediate need for gratification. This digital world puts information at our disposal so rapidly that anything requiring effort seems off putting for my children.
Alas, I may be in the minority these days in my usage of words. I don’t use “big” words intentionally. I simply try to use the best word for the job.
Thank you for the gift of language. Thank you for words that convey many layers of meaning. Thank you for great literature which uses words to paint pictures in the mind’s eye. Please bestow in me the patience to deal with the young people in my life who would complain about the appropriate usage of language.