Thinking back, I can remember three favorite new words that I learned, I think, during college.
What were they?
Bifurcation – dividing something into parts
Pernicious – harming in a gradual way
Post hoc ergo propter hoc –
What pleasure I took in saying:
“The argument caused a bifurcation in their party.”
Instead of: “The argument caused a split in their party.”
“Afterward, the policy had a pernicious effect on the economy.”
Instead of: “Afterward, the policy had a bad effect on the economy.”
And what ungracious amusement and pride I took in simply saying
Post hoc ergo propter hoc.
…after listening to a bad argument.
And then, with most people, I still had the added joy of explaining what it meant – and how they were using bad logic.
I was gracious and wonderful, I know.
Words are immensely seductive, in ways we don’t often recognize. Their power can perhaps most clearly be seen in young children, who become fascinated by new words and look for every possible opportunity to use them. Now, in fact, adults are no different in this respect: we just have learned to do a better job than our younger counterparts of obscuring our fascination, of pretending that a phrase brand new to us has been part of our
word hoardforever. Oh, this old thing? But we turn the shiny new phrases over and over in our minds, as a miser fondles the coins in his pockets.
-Alan Jacobs, How To Think