I caught a TV series recently following child geniuses in their quest to be the best according to MENSA, the high IQ society. It has been fascinating. The programme followed several contestants throughout the heats allowing the viewer to catch a glimpse of these wonderful children, their parents and their guardians come under pressure to perform and make a particular grade. I am not sure how I would feel if this were a child of mine, and thankfully I never had to make decisions like this. One set of parents moved from the UK to Italy when their child was three years of age in order to enrol him in a particular kindergarten that was very educationally focused on child geniuses. It’s quite extraordinary the sacrifices that some people make for the sake of their children.
One thing that struck me about the competitors was their extended and eloquent vocabulary. One 12 year old participant who eventually won the competition, moved to England from India three years ago with her non English speaking Tamil family in order to enhance her ability to speak English. It is her 2nd language yet she has been the world Scrabble under twelve champion twice already.
Her vocabulary was so extensive. I envy that. I adore words and I love adding to my personal ‘repertoire’ all the time. Some people collect stamps, I like to collect words. I store them up inside my head in a beautiful mariner’s trunk that is lined with imaginary colourful fabric and cushioned boxes. All the special words that I rarely use in every day conversions get stored in here.
Whimsical words like ‘serendipity’, ‘fortuitous’, ’juxtaposition’, ‘murmur’, ‘myriad’ and ‘enchanting’ are words that are beautiful in their expression and sound, but are not for general conversation. ‘Reprehensible’, ‘ghastly’, ‘quintessential’ and ‘languid’ are other words that I would love to use daily but I don’t. Using words like these in my experience create divisions, as some people need them to be explained and understood in their context. When I have to explain the definition of a beautiful word that I am using for the sheer joy of using it, I feel that I am somehow being pretentious to the person who doesn’t understand its meaning. I usually give the explanation by using another word to replace the one that I have used, and I have been asked on numerous occasions why I didn’t use the simpler version in the first place.
This stops me writing in the way that I would love to. I have thousands of words stored in my mind that burst with colour, feeling, texture and excitement. I ‘think’ them all the time, but I don’t use them in my everyday speech as I don’t want to appear grandiose. I don’t want the people that I come into contact with to feel that I am using another language, and I don’t want to sound like I am trying to be impressive.
Simplicity has its place in everyday speech, and using language without being ‘flowery ‘is a way of communicating and being generally understood. However, I believe that there is a beauty and eloquence that is getting lost in our modern language because of the many words that are not regularly being used and spoken.
I wonder if I will eventually start a secret club that meets and ‘exchanges’ words in an undisclosed cavern where the password to enter will be a word that is the beautiful equivalent of a simpler version that is understood by many ?
Would anyone else care to join?
Destiny may be appreciating that it’s more important to be simply understood by many rather than being a linguistic marvel to few.