Solidus Editorial Solutions Cromulent
Occasionally I’ll have trouble expressing a particular thought or feeling, or get frustrated when I can’t find a description precise enough to describe a loved one, and I’ll realize – I don’t know enough words. And I’m not alone in this. I’ve read estimates that there are 600,000 words in the English language and the average American can easily access only 60,000 of them. We could all expand our vocabularies a bit.

But here’s my real problem – I fake it.

I smile and nod at parties, faking comprehension, when a couple of words I don’t know can make me lose the entire meaning of a conversation. And that’s a shame both for the person who took the time to share an idea that fell flat because of my ignorance, and for me because I lost the opportunity to gain new wisdom. I’ll laugh at jokes I don’t get while promising myself that I’ll learn that word when I get home. And if I remember to do so, I may chuckle to myself at the remembered joke, but the community aspect of a shared joke is lost. I once went home and looked up the word cromulent after laughing with colleagues at a joke I didn’t understand. When I discovered that it was a Simpsons reference and not a real word, my embiggened ego was crushed.

This behavior goes against everything I believe in. I’ll have maddening arguments with my husband, also a writer, over semantics because precision of language is extremely important to us both. And I truly believe that language is an art form that can be raised to much loftier places than we sometimes allow it. But living these beliefs requires that I know more words.

So this year, my New Year’s resolution will be to quit faking it. If I don’t understand a word that you use, I’ll ask you what it means. And in the process, I’ll become a better editor, a more precise writer, and a more effective communicator. I might get to know you a little bit better, too.

By Emily Olson


 


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