My wife laughed at me again the other day. Not with me, mind you, at me.
I used the word “hence” in her presence. I’m not even sure what the situation was when the term came up, however, my son and I believe I used the word correctly and there was no need for her hearty guffaw.
She called me a Mister Smarty-pants with my big words. I pointed out that “hence” only has five letters. She proceeded to explain that during the entire 23 years she has known me, she has never once heard the word “hence” come out of my mouth. She evidently is much more used to my more common one-syllable phrases such as “yep” and “huh?”
This isn’t the first time this kind of thing has happened. Once at a family supper, I was talking about an episode of “The Antiques Roadshow” that I had seen the night before. Somewhere in the conversation, I ended a sentence with “… back in Buddy Ebsen’s vaudevillian days.” My wife made the audible “Hah!” noise and my brother-in-law Jeff choked on his food. I didn’t know what their problem was. Did they have an issue with Buddy Ebsen, the famous actor who brought the role of Jed Clampett to life on “The Beverly Hillbillies?” Were they not big fans of the 1970s private detective series “Barnaby Jones?” Were they bothered by the fact that Mr. Ebsen didn’t get the role as the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz” because he was allergic to the aluminum powder in the make-up he would have worn, and the part was eventually given to Jack Haley? Could any of these things caused such reactions?
No. Their responses were due to the fact that I used the word “vaudevillian” in a sentence. My wife thought I made the word up. I replied that a vaudevillian is one who performed a vaudeville act. Later on, I actually had to show her dictionary proof that the word exists. (Actually I didn’t have to show her. I just like to point out when I’m right.) Jeff thought this was just more proof that I’m an idiot. That, coupled with the fact that I admitted to watching “The Antiques Roadshow.” Jeff is mean.
With these two incidents fresh in my mind, I believe there is an ever so slight chance that my wife just might think I’m a little bit of a moron. Hence, I have decided to expand my vocabulary. I might just become a sesquipedalian, or “one who is characterized by long words.” I have now dug out the old college dictionary, downloaded a word-of-the-day app, and I have actually opened my thesaurus instead of just using it as a coaster for cold drinks. As these new words flood into my brain, I can feel myself becoming smarter.
In fact, while writing this column, normally a Sisyphean task for a monosyllabic plebeian such as myself, I felt instantaneously unencumbered by the former shackles that the English language held upon my written compositions. An influx of terminology flowed from my cerebrum through my metacarpals to the keyboard filling the computer monitor. The sheer multitude of my verbosity became grandiose. My musings were suddenly ebullient and almost luminescent. Where I used to be parsimonious and miserly with my adjective and adverb usage, these items are now auspicious accoutrements to my new serendipitous manner of speaking. Some, such as my aforementioned brother-in-law, may become vexed at my new preponderance of prodigiously-sized words when it comes to my conversational utterances. How preposterous! They are merely viewing the world through their own dystopian perspective and have thusly displayed their ludicrous ignorance with this disdainful animosity. Choke on that, Jeff!
While learning new words and finding ways to filter them into my everyday speech is kind of fun, my ultimate goal, however, is to prove to my wife that every once in a while, I might be at least a little bit intelligent.
Right now, she thinks I ain’t.
You can contact Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on his blog at http://gregwallaceink.blogspot.com.