Monday, December 15, 2003

I Guess a Big Penis Requires a Big Word

Near the end of the year is when the Oscar contenders hit theatres, the theory being that the judges will be more predisposed to movies they’ve seen recently and can thus remember. Perhaps working from a similar theory, Lynn Crosbie waited until Saturday past to offer us her most egregious use of a $1,000 word in 2003. Here is the passage in question:

"Fully aware that if Pamela's body was not exactly news, Tommy's acromegalic penis was, the couple eventually publicized the tape, brokered a distribution deal, ultimately playing chicken with other amateur porn stars, and stopping smartly at the cliff's edge."

Over at Merriam-Webster, I learned the following:

Main Entry: ac·ro·meg·a·ly
Pronunciation: "a-krO-'me-g&-lE
Function: noun
Etymology: International Scientific Vocabulary
Date: 1889
: chronic hyperpituitarism marked by progressive enlargement of hands, feet, and face
- ac·ro·me·gal·ic /-m&-'ga-lik/ adjective or noun

Orwell, in his essay "Politics and the English Language," gave us six rules to avoid bad writing:

1) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2) Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
5) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous

Crosbie has decided to invert Rule Number Two at every opportunity in her Globe column, and yet I am not criticizing her, merely pointing out that she is surely losing a few people each week with her especial word choice.

Main Entry: es·pe·cial
Pronunciation: is-'pe-sh&l
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French
Date: 14th century
: being distinctive: as a : directed toward a particular individual, group, or end (sent especial greetings to his son) (took especial care to speak clearly) b : of special note or importance : unusually great or significant (a decision of especial relevance) c : highly distinctive or personal : PECULIAR (had an especial dislike for music) d : CLOSE, INTIMATE (his especial crony) e : SPECIFIC, PARTICULAR (had no especial destination in mind)