$10 Words

Lynne Kiesling

I love $10 words; my favorite is concatenation, as in “an unforeseen concatenation of circumstances”. I know I used it in my dissertation, and I think I lifted it from P.G. Wodehouse (out of the mouth of Jeeves, naturally).

Thus I particularly enjoyed Jack Shafer’s Slate column from Friday on Martin Peretz’s use of $10 words:

Don’t get me wrong: I get a kick out of $10 words, too, and even use them now and again to make my pieces showier. But the psychic surcharge deters me from using them often enough to fall into the faux-erudition trap that bedevils undisciplined, rich writers like Martin Peretz, co-owner and editor-in-chief of the New Republic. He burns through $10 words and phrases like they’re kindling.

The whole column is quite amusing, and well-researched, with many rich links to Peretz’s repeated use of the high-falutin’ word kindling. It was so amusing that it moved me to revisit Peretz’s op-ed today in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) on Senator Lieberman facing a “peace candidate”. Sure enough, there in the first paragraph:

We have been here before. Left-wing Democrats are once again fielding single-issue “peace candidates,” and the one in Connecticut, like several in the 1970s, is a middle-aged patrician, seeking office de haut en bas, and almost entirely because he can.

Bingo! But he either restrained himself or editor Tunku Varadarajan reigned him in, because that is the sole display of vocabulary ostentation in the piece (which was an interesting read for substance as well as style).

Hat tip to Radley Balko for the Shafer link.


2 thoughts on “$10 Words

  1. Are all French words $10 words? If you use French words that even the French believe are “10 Euro” words, does that increase the dollar price? Is there a currency exchange issue?

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