Shakespeare used around 15,000 words.
If he couldn’t find the word he needed he invented it.
The average English speaker today knows around 2,500.
The average big-city newspaper uses about 850.
Knowing all of this I should be pleased and impressed, have a ‘right on’ attitude, towards the shows on television that try to expand the vocabulary of their characters.
Should….but I don’t.
It irritates the hell ought of me!
There is a difference in having a good command of your native tongue and unnecessarily making things sound complicated, important or ambiguous.
We were watching ‘Law and Order’ (pronounced ‘Lor and Awde’ by the British announcer) the other night. One of the
cops Civil Disobedience Control Officers was pointing to the wall at the “weapon projectile entrance crater”.
I find this phenomenon particularly rampant in ‘Cop’ shows. Guns are now weapons. Cars are vehicles.
This is all absolutely correct but if I’m screaming at someone why would I pick the 3 syllable word over the one syllable?
Why yell “Remove yourself from the vehicle” when “get outta the car” would work?
Why is “He proceeded to discharge his weapon” considered more understandable than “He fired” or “He shot his gun”.
Of course, on these same shows, when they have a perfectly good ‘big’ word they immediately shorten it: Perpetrator (as in ‘of the crime’) becomes ‘perp’ and victim (as in ‘of the crime’) becomes ‘vic’.
We also see this in corporations and government.
My favorite or, more appropriate, least favorite of these ‘fancy’ terms is ‘collateral damage’.
I suppose we couldn’t actually have the government say they killed the wrong people but even the old ‘casualties of war’ clearly let one know that it wasn’t just an empty building that was destroyed.
‘Friendly fire’ is another.
Can you think of anything less friendly than being shot at by the guys supposedly protecting your back (so to speak)?
Does the substitution of long or less common words for the simple makes us sound smarter?
Or just like the old portrayals of the mafia ‘dons’ in the movies?
More importantly to me….do the French do that in their television shows? If I am trying to improve my French by watching the telly am I going to end up sounding ridiculous, er, more ridiculous than I already do?
Is my counterpart in the U.S., some nice French woman writing a blog on ‘Living in America’, learning English from watching these shows?
Poor woman….in more ways than one….
I think I’ll send her some chicken…
An elegant party dish, it expands easily. Boneless chicken and artichoke bottoms, baked in a white wine sauce. It can be prepared ahead and baked at the last minutes. Very little work for gourmet main course. Serve with some fluffy Basmati.
2 chicken breasts – boneless, skinless
1 medium onion
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbs olive oil
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup (4oz, 125ml) Greek or plain yogurt, or sour cream
1 tbs Dijon-style mustard
1/2 cup (2oz, 60gr) Parmesan cheese
2 tbs cornstarch dissolved in 3 tbs chicken broth
15oz (450gr) artichoke bottoms
Cut onion in half and slice thinly. Cut the chicken breasts in half, the short way. In nonstick skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until tender. Add tarragon, thyme and chicken breasts and sauté until chicken starts to brown. Add the white wine, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes. Open and drain artichoke bottoms. In a small baking dish (just large enough to hold everything and, if possible, nice enough to go directly to the table) arrange artichoke bottoms in a single layer. Remove chicken breasts and arrange around artichokes. Increase heat under skillet to medium-high, add the chicken broth and mustard to the wine. When simmering hard stir in cornstarch mixture and cook until thickened. Remove from heat; add yogurt and Parmesan. Pour sauce over chicken and artichokes and bake in 400F (200C) for 15 minutes.
Remove and serve.