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