My love for new words and strange words and words with a metrical rhythm (logaoedic) and unusual words often results in obnubilation, obtenebration, opacation – unclear, even lutulent communication… but I have lotsa fun!
Jewish folklore is a particular interest of mine, and this pearl is one of my favourites. It is almost certainly apocryphal, but my source is Henry D. Spalding, quoting Adolph S. Ochs’ advice to a young journalist –
In promulgating your esoteric cogitations and articulating superficial sentimental and psychological observations, beware of platitudinous ponderosity. Let your extemporaneous decantations and unpremeditated expiations have intelligibility and veracious vivacity without rodomontade and thrasonical bombast. Sedulously avoid all polysyllabic profundity, pusillanimous vacuity, pestiferous profanity and similar infringements. In other words, talk simply, naturally, and above all, don’t use big words.
It is generally suspected that the longest word in the English language inevitably follows the phrase, “and now for a word from our sponsor…”
I can tell you that “honorificabilitudinitatibus” (27 letters – “with honourableness”; “honour…” would have made it 28 letters long) is the longest word used, and coined by, Shakespeare. (Love’s Labour’s Lost, V.i.38.)
James Joyce coined ten 100-letter words in Finnegans Wake, including this one, my personal favourite, bababadalg-haraghtaka-mminarronn-
nenthurnuk, meaning “a symbolic thunderclap that represents the fall of Adam and Eve.” Yeah. Right.
This 34-letter monster (matching Mary Poppins’ supercalifragilistic-
expialidocious – “superb”) is at least comprehensible, and even usable – pseudoantidisestablishmentarianism, pertaining to false opposition to the withdrawal of state support from a church.
I am proud of my vocabulary and I do not need expletives and obscene expressions to bolster my arguments against religion.
Yet I want people to realise from my sporadic cussing and irreverent choice of word just how deep my disdain for religion cuts. I want you to recoil at my choice of expression. I want you to realise that I have no respect whatsoever for the agnosy that is religion.
The odd oath can never compare to the vulgarity of 9/11; the odd oath can never compare to the obscenity of “Just-say-no-’cause-the-Bible-tells-me-so”; the odd oath can never compare to the smut of Gujarat; the odd oath can never compare to the salacity that crippled Ali Ismail Abbas Hamza; the odd oath can never compare to the salaciousness of the murder of Theo van Gogh.
I want you to be uncomfortable with my language; I want you to feel insulted – it is the stuff of faith, of religion.
Be assured though that I shall never raise any weapon but my virtual pen against the foe religion and her pongos.
I hope my double-edged words will evoke the unspeakable consequences of religion… When I say “fuck”, think of what religion does to gays; think of 9/11; think of Gujarat; think of Ali Ismail Abbas Hamza; think of Theo van Gogh; think of the Nigerian city of Jos… think of religion.
1. Steven Pinker Comes to the ‘F’ Word’s Defense: Listen Now [29 min 47 sec]
2. Read an excerpt from ‘The Stuff of Thought’ by Steven Pinker: Chapter 1 — Words and Worlds
3. Go Pinker yourself – and shove this up your Steven: Robert Lane Greene admires Steven Pinker’s new essay on swearing…