Vocabulary. Say what?

Photo: Internet Meme from Acesweekly.co.uk
Photo: Internet Meme from Acesweekly.co.uk


I never realised quite how extensive my vocabulary was until I was pulled aside at work once and cautioned that there was a complaint against me because I made other people feel stupid. It wasn’t because I intentionally or unintentionally spoke down to people but because I littered my conversations with big words that other people didn’t understand. I was asked to remember that not all staff members had a university education (I didn’t think it was wise to point out that neither had I) or spoke English as a first language. My supervisor said she understood that this was just me being me but could I watch my words just the same.

Not wanting to give rise to another complaint, I asked if it could be pointed out when I used big words so that I could translate them to a more common usage.

I was surprised at the words that were pointed out.


I remember my mum speaking such words when I was a kid. By the time I was eight, I was reading ‘grown up’ books and found a lot of fascinating and interesting sounding words there too. My husband is a university graduate and has travelled the world. To me, usage like this normal. And I haven’t even reached the best words yet. It really, really shocked me that these were the words that made people ‘feel stupid’.

I’m not university educated. I’m not an etymologist or a linguist. I’ve just read books for as long as I can remember. And I was taught how to use a dictionary and a thesaurus. Somewhere along the way I’ve picked up ‘big’ words and I worked out what they meant. I didn’t do it to make other people feel stupid. I didn’t do it to big note myself. I didn’t do it to make myself sound important or stuck up. I did it because I read a word I didn’t know and wanted to find out what it meant.

That was it.

If I use a big word you don’t understand, just ask. I don’t mind. I’ll think that we’ve had different life experiences and that I’ve learned something different along the way.

I won’t think you’re stupid.


6 thoughts on “Vocabulary. Say what?

  1. I cannot believe you had complaints at work over this! That’s crazy. I love words. The more succinct and descriptive the better. Oh sorry, I used succinct! You have a good attitude. I think I would just be mad and flabbergasted. Oops, another big word. I have no advice for you in the workplace. But as far as the rest of your life is concerned, keep looking up words and keep expressing yourself. Words are awesome.

  2. Oh mate that’s just sucky eh?! You is the nicest chic and I can’t even imagine ya would mean anything bad by using big words. I might even learn me something new too.
    Love from your typical Aussie Sheila

    • Bonza Mate.
      She’ll be right. I’ve got the gift of the gab, and not all blokes or sheilas under-con-stumble what I speak, eh.
      Ha Ha. 🙂
      Thanks Mandi. You made me smile.

  3. I have the same problem, though luckily, no one on my workplace ever complained about it. But when I was at school, my classmates often commented on the fact that I used words they didn’t understand (and I was shocked to learn what words they were, too), and my friends still joke me for my choise of words, sometimes.
    I don’t mind it now, but when I was a teenager, it did. I ended up intentionally speaking incorrectly so to make up for my ‘difficult’ chose of words.

    Well, what can I say? I’m a non-native English speaker, but I understand every word you mentioned above.
    We’re weird like that 😉

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