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Lilllabettt

Smarty Pants

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Lilllabettt
Once, in former days, I was having a conversation with a professed Sister (not my superior.) For some reason we were discussing my vocabulary. She said: "Whenever I used to use big words, it was because ... [pause, with meaningful look] ... well, I don't want you to get scrupulous. "

From the direction of the conversation, I could tell that basically. the idea was, I was using a bunch of hard words, which other people weren't understanding, and maybe it was because I liked feeling smarter than other people.

It really hadn't occurred to me that I was using hard words. I went to public school for goodness. The only place I could have picked them up was watching PBS. Anyway, after this convo, I became scrupulous about it. I tried to stop myself saying a "hard" word, and if one slipped out, I immediately felt a rush of "I'm smart" of which I was terribly ashamed. Whereas before I was totally innocent of it all. Oh, the humanity.

Fast forward almost 2 years ... and I find myself reading a dictionary written by Bill Buckley, full of wonderful "hard" words. I was doing it for the simple joy of it; I like learning words. Then something reminded me of that old conversation and I was once again conflicted. I mean, learning is good, being well spoken is good. But making other people feel stupid is bad. Trying to "look smart" is bad.

I've been thinking about this in the context of religious life. A lay person, I think, could probably get away with being wordy. But a religious? Hmmm. I definitely see my former Sister's point. Would it be bad for pride? Uncharitable towards others to use language they might not understand?

A religious shouldn't risk these things just because she enjoys language, right? That would probably be one of the sacrifices she'd have to make . Although, maybe it would depend on the charism of the community.

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CatherineM
My mom used to tell me that I shouldn't talk smart or I wouldn't get a husband. One of the things my husband says made him fall in love with me was a discussion I got into about the Treaty of Versailles. I guess my mom was wrong.

Having a nun tell you to dumb things down reminds me of "The Nun Story." I didn't like how that turned out at all.

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DameAgnes
Must agree - immediately thought of Sr. Luke being told to be LESS than she was, in order to demonstrate humility.

Truth IS humility. Accepting who you are and your gifts is a huge humility.

That sister caused you to become overly-scrupulous and therefore uncomfortable with yourself and who you are and the gifts God gave you.

Whether that was for the betterment of your soul? Well, who knows. But remember what Catherine of Siena said: if you are who you were meant to be, you will set the world on fire."

And, umm...we're not supposed to hide our lights under bushels, either.

The dictionary sounds fun, btw, what is it called?

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Luigi
NEVER be ashamed of your vocabulary. NEVER.

Talk the way you talk. Use the words that express your point most clearly and succinctly. If others don't understand you, they can always ask for clarification. Big words are not a sign of intelligence (necessarily), nor are simple words a sign of stupidity (although it may indicate lack of education). As long as you know in your soul that you're not using words to intimidate or denigrate others, you have nothing to be scrupulous about.

And shame on Sister for judging the motives behind your vocabulary use when she had no basis for making a judgment. If you talk simply to everyone because you assume they're stupid, that's a sin against charity, too. Clearly this nun was not from a teaching order - a teaching sister would have [i]complimented[/i] you on your vocabulary.

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InHisLove726
I honestly feel that Sister was mistaken. I see no reason to hide your love for vocabulary simply because others may or may not understand it. Think about all the learned men and women in the Church (e.g. Thomas Aquinas or Edith Stein)! God doesn't dislike those who love to learn! So keep reading your books and studying your vocabulary. I think it's important to learn. ;)

P.S.--I've been watching a lot of PBS too, and several of the words that the English (natives to England) use have rubbed off in my vocabulary. :P

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Lilllabettt
Hey, I don't mean to make Sister look bad. She wasn't my superior, so maybe she shouldn't have been "forming" me in such a definite way. But she was trying to give me what she knew from her own experience.

It does come down to intention, and that is the sticky wicket. I don't have pure intentions for anything. There is always some arrogance, some pride, some "look how smart I am" mixed in.

I can see a teaching Sister being able to make use of a strong vocabulary. But what about in other situations, speaking with the homeless or the elderly? People who, because of their situations in life, might be sensitive to feeling "stupid."

I ask myself: would it not be more prudent just to avoid all this, learn what language you need to communicate and let it go at that? The only reason I wouldn't do that is, I enjoy language. My own pleasure ... is that a good enough reason? Hmm. I consider it a part of my personality. I guess I'm a little afraid that religious life would require me to give up that part of my personality.

I just don't want to humiliate people. I hate being humiliated.

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Lilllabettt
[quote name='DameAgnes' post='1939524' date='Aug 3 2009, 02:02 AM']The dictionary sounds fun, btw, what is it called?[/quote]


The book, written by his late greatness, William F. Buckley, Jr., is called:

[url="http://www.amazon.com/Lexicon-Cornucopia-Wonderful-Words-Inquisitive/dp/0156006162/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1249278056&sr=8-1"]The Lexicon: A Cornucopia of Wonderful Words for the Inquisitive Word Lover[/url] Edited by Lilllabettt

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VeniteAdoremus
I understand exactly how you feel - I also have arrogance and pride mixed in with everything.

Of course, you have to talk in such a way that other people understand you. In my experience, though, people usually understand me exceedingly well, even if they don't know 5% of the words I'm using (for example, my favourite exclamation of frustration is "ichoresque underworld!", and while most people probably aren't familiar with the anatomical details of mythical beings, they will get the gist of the meaning from the way I yell it and the situation).

If you use big words only to be thought of as smarter than others, then it's not good. And you should tune your language to your audience, but chances are you're doing that automatically already, to some degree. People like hearing your personality, and they don't like being talked down to, so most of them would prefer you to speak however you wish to speak!

Two closing points: 1. have you ever felt humiliated because someone used a word you don't understand?
2. Have you ever learned a cool new word because someone else used it and you either asked or searched for the meaning?

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Gemma
After I graduated college, and got the job I had expected to pay off my educational debts so I could enter religious life, my sister told me to talk more simply. She said all the words I was using was confusing people.

Here my profs had worked so hard to put vocabulary into me, and all that education was undone in a matter of seconds. What a waste--and she helped pay for it!

Blessings,
Gemma

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stlmom
You have a true facility with language, a real God given gift that you've nurtured along the way. VA says it for me, just tailor your language to your situation. Every one who posted before me has given you good feedback. Use your gift, don't sit on it.

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she_who_is_not
Lilllabettt,
Have you read [i][/i]God and Man at Yale[i][/i]? I think you would enjoy it.

I have a slight Buckley crush. Not Christopher. Christopher is silly.

My two cents:

I'd like to add to what others have said about the use intelligence. I spend my days with people who craft their words in ways calculated to hurt the most people or to justify evil acts. This does not require a large vocabulary. In fact, we are trained to speak as simply as possible. Simple speech can hide sinister intentions and glorious words can hide humble intentions.

Seriously, God himself must be a logophile! He spoke creation into existence. He is the word made flesh. When we seek out new words we find new ways to love and praise God and to communicate with one another. I think that most people who use "big words" seek connection. They want to express their true meaning by using a precise word. If your conscience is clear, it is clear. Let the others work out why they are imputing "smartypants" intentions onto you.

Usefulness:

Most people know how to match their speech to their audience. If you are working with the homeless you find ways to communicate with them. Heck, I've met homeless people who put my ivy educated lit professors to shame. Not to mention a bishop or two. We don't know how God will use our gifts. We just use them and pray to give Him glory.


Aah! Typed to long. I'm off to go cram vocabulary into teenagers' heads so they can go to college and play sports.

AMDG!

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toservelove
I am also a word lover. I love to know the history of words. I love hearing what the Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic word was in Scripture, and the various conotations it had, and how often it was used and in what context. This brings Scripture to life for me.

I am also a religious--actually a postulant, formerly a teacher. My specialty was Communication Arts. I loved reading books to my students that had long/hard/interesting/unusual words in them. In fact, this is considered part and parcel of Elementary Education--that we make their environment print rich with both common and uncommon words.

I've read your post, and let me say that in them your vocabulary seemed quite average. When I say that I am not suggesting that [b]your[/b] vocabulary is average, but that in writing you chose accurate words, but not anything I had to look up, or that most people would have to look up.

When we speak we don't tend to use our "biggest" words, and if you do, so what? You're helping another person to grow. Either they ask what it means (or figure it out from context) and learn something and think no more about it, or they feel somehow what? demeaned, stupid, inadequate? Well, then they can grow in humility and truth, because certainly someone using a [u]word[/u] you don't know shouldn't effect your self-worth in that way. That's nuts! Which gets to the point that, you can't control how other people will feel about you. If it's not your vocabulary, it's the way you do your job, or cook the dinner, or clean the house, or accept a correction, or accept a compliment, or....well, you get the idea.

A few little jokes. My friend also loves words and has a tremendous vocabulary. She was working with pregnant teens, most of which had either dropped out or barely finished high school. But, it was her colleaugues told her, "You can't use any more words bigger than three letters." And, she really tried to honor that--not using only three letter words, but in the spirit of the comment toning down her vocabulary. That was, until she called one of the little boys and "imp" and no one had any idea what she was talking about. "It's only three letters," she pointed out. You just can't change your nature.

I think George Carlin or maybe Bill Cosby who did a skit that went something like: A little girl went to school and was learning to read. The teacher wrote l-i-t-t-l-e on the board and said, "That's little."

"Looks big to me," the little girl thought.

Then the teacher wrote b-i-g on the board. "That's big" she said.

"Well, that looks little to me," thought the little girl.

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Lilllabettt
[quote name='she_who_is_not' post='1939629' date='Aug 3 2009, 11:03 AM']Lilllabettt,
Have you read [i][/i]God and Man at Yale[i][/i]? I think you would enjoy it.

I have a slight Buckley crush. Not Christopher. Christopher is silly.[/quote]


I haven't read it, but I guess I'm going to have to, you're about the 5th person whose recommended it to me this past week. It will be interesting to see how Mr. Buckley at twenty something reads compared to Mr. Buckley at 60. I too have a Buckley fangirl crush. I find most of my fangirl crushes revolve around deceased brainiacs.

Thanks y'all for the brilliant advice.

It really just requires the application of common sense.

I just start to doubt my own judgment, sometimes, I suppose.

How silly, I feel so relieved.

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Lil Red
[quote name='Lilllabettt' post='1939546' date='Aug 2 2009, 11:43 PM']The book, written by his late greatness, William F. Buckley, Jr., is called:

[url="http://www.amazon.com/Lexicon-Cornucopia-Wonderful-Words-Inquisitive/dp/0156006162/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1249278056&sr=8-1"]The Lexicon: A Cornucopia of Wonderful Words for the Inquisitive Word Lover[/url][/quote]
+J.M.J.+
i love words too! thanks for the book tip!

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