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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Confessions of a logophile-

I am a logophile. I love words. In my youth I developed a voracious appetite for reading, and satisfying that appetite led to a significant exposure to words and their applications. I read broadly, though it has (sadly) been mostly in my native tongue of American English. Not exclusively so, and I have tasted and enjoyed words from a number of languages. However, most of my experience is in English.

Over the years I read books from different times and different places. Lots of different words used in lots of different ways. I had a youthful fondness for some of the loquacious styles in which richly flavored words were served in complex and convoluted sentences. I suspect I thought that these effusive writings somehow smacked of intellect, and I fancied myself an intellectual.

Oh, not intellectual enough to focus on my studies and really learn the depth of something. No, I grazed widely, but not particularly deeply. If this pasture was good, the next would be even better. I accumulated words as I grazed, and my vocabulary became a wonder. I admired it greatly, and supposed myself to be a great communicator.

I could score very high on those Reader's Digest vocabulary quizzes. I was erudite in my erudition, and most proud of that. Yes, I could really sound profound.

The passage of time has put my delusions in perspective. My dear wife has often challenged me, and rightly so, on my complaint about the communication skills of others. She points out that my loquacity often causes me to fail entirely to communicate, and that speaking (and writing) from a vocabulary so far from ordinary renders my thoughts opaque rather than clear.

A work associate once called my personal compendium of learning "Doctor Lockridge's Wading Pool of Knowledge." It was quite broad, but not very deep. It's funny, because it is true.

Oh, yes. The "Doctor Lockridge" thing. It is a nick-name given in mild derision of my ponderous vocabulary being lobbed around my place of work. A jail is a rather fundamental sort of place. Plain speaking really does serve better in such an environment, but I had such expansive habits in my speech by then that there was little hope.

It took eleven years of constructive criticism to beat the excessive verbiage from my jail related writing. Oh, the wit was appreciated and the abundance of detail recognized, but it took me quite some time to learn that good police writing is "as colorless as water, as dry as the Sahara wind." That phrase is my own invention, and an example of what my poor supervisors were up against.

Words have flavor, spin, subtle nuance. They are dynamic and alive. They are fun, and particularly inexpensive to play with. On the other hand, if miss-used or poorly applied words can cost you a great deal. Jargon is a blessing and a curse, and specialized vocabularies are serviceable in communication only between initiates. When used to exclude, words are less valuable and often hurtful.

Why my little confession? I was trying to put into words some ideas for my blog, Philosophy on Purpose. The prose were becoming ponderous, and I realized that I danced a fine line. I wanted to communicate my ideas, but poorly chosen words would get in my way. It was starting to look like a logo-jamb, and not a blog of distinction. I needed to think, and thinking gave rise to confession.

My name is Michael Lockridge, and I am a logophile.


La, Storyteller/Storysinger said...

Great blog and logophile is a wonderful word.
Hmm...I also love words but after reading your post I realize that I use the same ones over and over.
I will have to do something about that. Maybe get one of those word a day calendar and expand my vocabulary.

willow said...

Words are delicious. I eat them.

(I'm a grazer, too, btw)

Laura said...

My name is Laura and I am a logophile.

I cannot put the wordbottle down. I drink until I fall flat on my face and then I drink some more, until I slip into a logocoma.

No, I don't wanna get sober. I just came here to drink this great blog. :D

mac said...

I have always understanded you're righting.

No, seriously, I understand the need to communicate on the level of those in which you are trying to communicate. It does no good using a five dollar word if you are in a three dollar conversation..

I do enjoy reading your writing :-)