Are people who use big words smart or idiots trying to sound smart?

Are big word users smart?

  • Of course they are, they use big words.

    Votes: 3 18.8%
  • No, they are trying to impress you

    Votes: 6 37.5%
  • I wish the OP would go back to lurking

    Votes: 7 43.8%

  • Total voters
    16

Stopsignhank

Platinum Member
Mar 1, 2014
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There is a new guy here at work who like to use big words. I just found the word ideation in a document he wrote. Makes me wonder if people who use bid/odd words are smart or covering up something.

What does ATOT think?
 

whm1974

Diamond Member
Jul 24, 2016
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Just the way some folks talk. although many people do try to improve their vocabulary as I try to do time to time.
 
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lxskllr

No Lifer
Nov 30, 2004
56,040
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Overuse of big words is probably someone trying to sound impressive. Don't trust them, cause they're trying to hide something or bullshit you. The occasional big word is probably smart if it's the best word to use for that instance. Otherwise, you have to know your audience, and language should be tailored for that group. You aren't smart if no one knows what the fuck you're saying.
 

IronWing

No Lifer
Jul 20, 2001
65,468
20,575
136
Overuse of big words is probably someone trying to sound impressive. Don't trust them, cause they're trying to hide something or bullshit you. The occasional big word is probably smart if it's the best word to use for that instance. Otherwise, you have to know your audience, and language should be tailored for that group. You aren't smart if no one knows what the fuck you're saying.
Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your presupposition, man.
 

kranky

Elite Member
Oct 9, 1999
21,000
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Most people who pepper big words into conversations are either trying to impress or they are trying to belittle the audience. I do remember a former co-worker who was a literal genius and although he used big and obscure words plenty, it was always the exact right word in context. His vocabulary was huge, but he didn't do it just to hear himself talk or impress anyone. I still remember when he used "parvenu" - a word I had never encountered previously or since - and after looking it up realized it was the perfect word at the time, where I would have needed 10 words to communicate the same concept. (it means "a person of obscure origin who has gained wealth, influence, or celebrity.")

Then there was a former supervisor when I worked in a sweatshop who was so sensitive about his lack of a college education he simply made up words to try to make others feel inferior and make himself sound educated, knowing no underling would dare call him out on his made-up "words".
 

nakedfrog

No Lifer
Apr 3, 2001
55,189
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Depends on whether the word was used correctly. This isn't an either/or situation.
 
Nov 8, 2012
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Just the way some folks talk. although many people do try to improve their vocabulary as I try to do time to time.
Are you talking about written words or spoken words?

Written words can sometimes be explained by people having the ability to right click words in MS Word and select synonyms :p
 

Stopsignhank

Platinum Member
Mar 1, 2014
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Depends on whether the word was used correctly. This isn't an either/or situation.
Well this guy was in front of an auditor, asked me a question. After I answered he said "How is this information inseminated to the employees?"
 
Nov 8, 2012
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I still remember when he used "parvenu" - a word I had never encountered previously or since - and after looking it up realized it was the perfect word at the time, where I would have needed 10 words to communicate the same concept. (it means "a person of obscure origin who has gained wealth, influence, or celebrity.").
Sounds fairly close to the modernly used "affluent"
 

nOOky

Platinum Member
Aug 17, 2004
2,432
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Sometimes a big word can be very fitting and concise and replace a bunch of small words. Sometimes it can be annoying, especially if it's a word almost no one has heard of.

IMHO the most intelligent people I know can take difficult concepts and explain them so an idiot like myself can understand it, and do so without big words. People that use a bunch of big words to sound impressive are usually easy to spot, and their idiocy shows.
 

snoopy7548

Diamond Member
Jan 1, 2005
7,593
4,492
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It's hard to walk the line between expanding your vocabulary and being a show-off. I sometimes use big(ger) words when writing an e-mail because I have the time to consider what I'm going to say; if I can replace a few small words with one big one, I'll do it in order to avoid rambling on about something.

But usually, during meetings, I'll stick to smaller words. It's always obvious when somebody is trying to show off in front of others, and your audience consists of people who don't know anything to near-geniuses.

There is one incredibly smart guy who works from home who throws in arcane words, but that's just how he talks and he doesn't need to prove anything to anyone.
 

nakedfrog

No Lifer
Apr 3, 2001
55,189
7,961
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Well this guy was in front of an auditor, asked me a question. After I answered he said "How is this information inseminated to the employees?"
That one could have been a slip of the tongue, hard to say, as close as it is to disseminated (or could even have been misheard).
 
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Feb 25, 2011
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Well this guy was in front of an auditor, asked me a question. After I answered he said "How is this information inseminated to the employees?"
Then he's clearly an "ideat." For one thing, "communicated" is acceptable corporatespeak. Also, he doesn't know what "inseminate" means.

But to your first question, "ideation" really isn't a fancy or pretentious word. Most people know it, but it doesn't get used a lot - IMHO since it's usually used as part of the expression "suicidal ideation" it's got negative associations.

To echo others upthread, that doesn't mean you shouldn't use big words or that people using them are attention-seeking. Sometimes* there's a word that means exactly what you want to say, and it's simpler to use that word than try to concoct an imprecise analogue from more common words.

*Usually? English has way more words than most languages - i.e., an atypically extensive lexicon. There I go again. I think I have a problem.
 

FeuerFrei

Diamond Member
Mar 30, 2005
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Good question. I think if you spend enough time with them, you'll know. I know someone who always gets inventive with words in writing ... (unless writing up legislation) ... mostly because he fancies himself smart and intellectual ... and typically claims to be writing for the top 5% of knowledgeable readers.
Of course, it's yet another hindrance he arbitrarily places on his written communication. Reader comprehension, for him, takes a backseat to: number of syllables, line breaks, piling on adjectives in place of prepositional phrases, constantly sticking to active voice, opting for the more pejorative tems, etc .... all kinds of non-essential minutiae just so he can claim the title of "detail fanatic." "Mastery of detail is power" he says.

He claims to hate writing but that's pretty much mostly what his job entails.


LOL at "inseminate" instead of "disseminate."
 

Stopsignhank

Platinum Member
Mar 1, 2014
2,055
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That one could have been a slip of the tongue, hard to say, as close as it is to disseminated (or could even have been misheard).
The two HR ladies near me heard him say it also.

I guess my idea of language has been skewed since the majority of the production workers here speak English as a second language. I wrote many documents here at work. Some are for government inspectors, some are for internal use and some are for the people on the production floor. There are different styles for who my audience is.
 

kt

Diamond Member
Apr 1, 2000
5,885
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Well this guy was in front of an auditor, asked me a question. After I answered he said "How is this information inseminated to the employees?"
Get your head out of the gutter, your mind is telling you what you want to hear. He probably said disseminated but you heard inseminated.
 

rh71

No Lifer
Aug 28, 2001
52,800
986
126
Using them while writing is different than in conversation. "Nobody talks like that, dude".
 

Red Squirrel

No Lifer
May 24, 2003
63,985
10,394
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I think most people just do it to sound impressive. They may or may not be smart, but there's no reason to purposely use $50 words in a conversation. IMO people who do that just sound like douches as they're basically trying to elevate themselves to perceive smart. Even if they are smart, there is no reason to be all snobby about it.
 

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