Do you ever think having a strong vocabulary is kind of a curse for speech?


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Thread: Do you ever think having a strong vocabulary is kind of a curse for speech?

  1. #1

    Do you ever think having a strong vocabulary is kind of a curse for speech?

    I've often wondered if there comes a point where having a strong vocab is actually an obstacle when it comes to verbal communication.

    I don't know if others can relate with me, but I find that I talk slower, and I have awkward pauses, because I'm trying to flip through my cranial rolodex of words to use for any given moment. I'm always looking for the most optimal word to convey my sentences, and I have this tendency to get overly analytical. Sometimes I'll get trapped in my own head, because I'll have to settle for a word, but I know that there's a better word... sometimes I'm still thinking of that word while I'm simultaneously putting together the next sentence.

    It makes me come off more neurotic, as opposed to fluid and natural.

    To use a computer analogy, I feel like I have a lot of data in my storage, so it's taking longer for my processor to search for the file.

    For those who don't share this problem, do you just have a great processor? Or do you have any tricks around this?

    I also happen to be bilingual. My second language is merely functional. I'm probably at the level of a 2nd or 3rd grader. I just know basic words that are satisfactory for practical, real world tasks. Outside of philosophy or politics, I can communicate fairly well; nobody has a hard time understanding me, and I find that I don't have this hesitant speech with my second language, because I only know the most elementary words. I know there're probably better words and smarter ways to communicate what I'm saying, but because my vocabulary is limited, I'm at peace with it, and I can just talk fluidly in this second language. In a way, it's emancipating.

    But when it comes to English, I feel like I have too many options, and I get indecisive.

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by cinderblock View Post
    I've often wondered if there comes a point where having a strong vocab is actually an obstacle when it comes to verbal communication.

    I don't know if others can relate with me, but I find that I talk slower, and I have awkward pauses, because I'm trying to flip through my cranial rolodex of words to use for any given moment. I'm always looking for the most optimal word to convey my sentences, and I have this tendency to get overly analytical. Sometimes I'll get trapped in my own head, because I'll have to settle for a word, but I know that there's a better word... sometimes I'm still thinking of that word while I'm simultaneously putting together the next sentence.

    It makes me come off more neurotic, as opposed to fluid and natural.

    To use a computer analogy, I feel like I have a lot of data in my storage, so it's taking longer for my processor to search for the file.

    For those who don't share this problem, do you just have a great processor? Or do you have any tricks around this?

    I also happen to be bilingual. My second language is merely functional. I'm probably at the level of a 2nd or 3rd grader. I just know basic words that are satisfactory for practical, real world tasks. Outside of philosophy or politics, I can communicate fairly well; nobody has a hard time understanding me, and I find that I don't have this hesitant speech with my second language, because I only know the most elementary words. I know there're probably better words and smarter ways to communicate what I'm saying, but because my vocabulary is limited, I'm at peace with it, and I can just talk fluidly in this second language. In a way, it's emancipating.

    But when it comes to English, I feel like I have too many options, and I get indecisive.
    I sympathize. Best course is just to know the words really well. The more familiar you are with the word, the more likely it is to fly off your tongue. No one around will understand you, but you'll know what it means, so you can explain if anyone asks at that point. When in doubt, use "normal" words instead of your five-dollar words. Better to keep the conversation going than stall it while you're busy trying to find that perfect word, snapping your fingers and going, "Aah, it's right on the tip of my tongue!"
    "Ammonia will disinfect sin."
    --adrianhayter

    "Art is life, just add bull****."
    --Chris Miller

  3. #3
    WF Veteran Winston's Avatar
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    I find myself vascilating between graduate level vocabulary and gutter-speak. I don't try at all to control it. I probably confuse the hec out of some, but for most, the contextual setting helps frame the dialogue.
    Just insert a few random F-Bombs, and inane pop-culture references, and you're golden.

    But seriously, practice interpersonal communication skills. The cues that others give you will help you direct the tone of most conversations. It's not mimicry, it's synchronicity.
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  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Winston View Post
    I find myself vascilating between graduate level vocabulary and gutter-speak. I don't try at all to control it. I probably confuse the hec out of some, but for most, the contextual setting helps frame the dialogue.
    Just insert a few random F-Bombs, and inane pop-culture references, and you're golden.

    But seriously, practice interpersonal communication skills. The cues that others give you will help you direct the tone of most conversations. It's not mimicry, it's synchronicity.
    Hmm, I'd love to see what that's like, haha! I think that's really awesome. I used to compete in coffee competitions, where we'd have to serve coffee and talk about it. I was so scared of public speaking at the time, I honestly considered speaking with an accent in my second language, so they'd be lenient on me, because of the presumption I'm a foreigner. Even if I'm awkward and forget my lines, they'd still find me more fascinating, rather than me being nervous and talking all quietly. We tend to be more compassionate toward non-natives; in other words, the bar is set lower. Funny thing is, I placed 5th overall, and there was actually a friend who placed 2nd. He actually does have a foreign accent, and he told me he was not nervous at all. I think it's partially because he's working with less vocab; there's less to remember, and you don't get trapped in your own head.

    Quote Originally Posted by seigfried007 View Post
    I sympathize. Best course is just to know the words really well. The more familiar you are with the word, the more likely it is to fly off your tongue. No one around will understand you, but you'll know what it means, so you can explain if anyone asks at that point. When in doubt, use "normal" words instead of your five-dollar words. Better to keep the conversation going than stall it while you're busy trying to find that perfect word, snapping your fingers and going, "Aah, it's right on the tip of my tongue!"
    Yes, I do know the words, but it's just hard to pull out the precise one for whatever subject you're talking about. It's always at the tip of my tongue, but the loading bar has stalled. But yes, I agree with everything you said in theory. It's just that I'm trying my best to practice it. I wouldn't notice this so much if I wasn't recording myself. Lately I've been working on my presentation, so I've been doing daily recordings, and it's made me very self-conscious. I notice I get stuck mid-sentence sometimes, and I also have abrupt pauses. I'll keep working at it. Thanks.

  5. #5
    Write it out and practice, practice, practice.

    I'm a wreck in front of people, so even practicing doesn't seem to help me much because stage fright's the killer. Practice can, however, bestow that confidence you need to really get the words flowing. You know where you're going if you've practiced. Reading off the screen can help too, but it's still good to practice because you're working on the rhythm and delivery (avoiding awkward pauses).
    "Ammonia will disinfect sin."
    --adrianhayter

    "Art is life, just add bull****."
    --Chris Miller

  6. #6
    I have mixed feelings about writers with big vocabularies.

    Some pull it off and give the story an authoritative feeling. I always like a book where I learn something, even cool new words.

    But most often writers who use a lotta $5 words just sound like they are trying too hard. It's kinda like when you can tell an actor is acting...

    I think where most writers go wrong with an expanded vocabulary is when they simply use it as an adverb/adjective database.
    Just because you replace VERY with Significant doesn't make your writing better.
    But if you combine well-developed paragraphs with $5 words, then it works.

    However, simplistic writing with a huge vocabulary screams noob.

  7. #7
    ^ A noob with a thesaurus.


    That said, I've been accused of writing with a thesaurus when I wasn't--having an extensive vocabulary does that. I don't see a problem necessarily with using a thesaurus, however, and often use one to avoid repeating myself, find a better word for connotation or rhythm, and remember a word I know but can't recall at the moment. $5 words do tend to jump out at a reader and often aren't needed to get the point across.

    A big hurdle, however, is POV. If writing in-character, use words the POV character would use. If they wouldn't use "defenestrated", don't use it. Just say, "Vinnie tossed Jerry out the window."
    "Ammonia will disinfect sin."
    --adrianhayter

    "Art is life, just add bull****."
    --Chris Miller

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by seigfried007 View Post
    ^ A noob with a thesaurus.


    That said, I've been accused of writing with a thesaurus when I wasn't--having an extensive vocabulary does that. I don't see a problem necessarily with using a thesaurus, however, and often use one to avoid repeating myself, find a better word for connotation or rhythm, and remember a word I know but can't recall at the moment. $5 words do tend to jump out at a reader and often aren't needed to get the point across.

    A big hurdle, however, is POV. If writing in-character, use words the POV character would use. If they wouldn't use "defenestrated", don't use it. Just say, "Vinnie tossed Jerry out the window."

    Truth!
    Big words also look out of place if the rest of the writing is not at the same level.
    It's like hearing a hillbilly use a fancy-schmancy word; totally out of step with the rest of the text.

  9. #9
    Member Megan Pearson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seigfried007 View Post
    ^ A noob with a thesaurus.


    That said, I've been accused of writing with a thesaurus when I wasn't--having an extensive vocabulary does that.
    Yup. Been there, done that. (On the receiving end of that accusation, that is.)

    It's really annoying.


    Cinderblock, have you tried joining a public speaking or a professional development group? I did and it helped me a lot!

    Just like in writing, remember that whoever you're speaking to is your audience. There is a knack to learning how to tailor what you say in order for it to be better received, but that's where a professional development-type group comes in. They know how to teach you how to do that.
    "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."
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  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by seigfried007 View Post
    Write it out and practice, practice, practice.

    I'm a wreck in front of people, so even practicing doesn't seem to help me much because stage fright's the killer. Practice can, however, bestow that confidence you need to really get the words flowing. You know where you're going if you've practiced. Reading off the screen can help too, but it's still good to practice because you're working on the rhythm and delivery (avoiding awkward pauses).
    I'm sorry, but I think there was a huge misunderstanding. I'm talking about failure to remember words during spontaneous, everyday interactions. It was my fault, though. I referred to a presentation I had to do during coffee competitions as an example, and it somehow warped my original inquiry of forgetting words in casual convo into a phobia of prepared public speaking in front of an audience. The reason why I used the coffee presentation as an example was because it was a improvised on the spot. It was not a presentation that used a pre-written script. That's my bad for not communicating. Granted, I could always get better at public presentations, but right now that's not a big problem for me, because like you said, it's about "practice." I'm talking about improvisation. Anyway, thanks. I was just wondering how others dealt with this, but it appears this is just a neurotic hangup of mine. Others who may have this same problem most likely can't relate, because they don't have to suffer through recordings of themselves each day, which is what I started doing lately... I wouldn't have noticed it myself if I wasn't doing daily recordings on random topics.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    I have mixed feelings about writers with big vocabularies.

    Some pull it off and give the story an authoritative feeling. I always like a book where I learn something, even cool new words.

    But most often writers who use a lotta $5 words just sound like they are trying too hard. It's kinda like when you can tell an actor is acting...

    I think where most writers go wrong with an expanded vocabulary is when they simply use it as an adverb/adjective database.
    Just because you replace VERY with Significant doesn't make your writing better.
    But if you combine well-developed paragraphs with $5 words, then it works.

    However, simplistic writing with a huge vocabulary screams noob.
    If you read my original post, this was never about remembering big bad SAT words that nobody knows. I'm talking about common words that I fail to recall in conversations. It's a very OCD quandary on my part. For example just today, I forgot the word "happy medium," so I had to use the word "settlement." I also forgot the word "dredge" in "dredge up the past," so I said "dig up the past." It's just little things here and there that don't matter in the greater scheme, but everytime it happens, I get a little deflated. Anyway, minor stuff. But it appears this thread has set a table for a deeper angst about writers who rely on rare, antiquated words.

    I just wanted to clarify I don't do this with my writing, and in fact, I firmly believe it's harder to write well with simple words, rather than have to rely on obscure words to cover up mediocrity if not inferiority. It ruins the narrative flow and immersion if the reader has to continuously break away from the book to look up a word.

    Quote Originally Posted by Megan Pearson View Post
    Yup. Been there, done that. (On the receiving end of that accusation, that is.)

    It's really annoying.


    Cinderblock, have you tried joining a public speaking or a professional development group? I did and it helped me a lot!

    Just like in writing, remember that whoever you're speaking to is your audience. There is a knack to learning how to tailor what you say in order for it to be better received, but that's where a professional development-type group comes in. They know how to teach you how to do that.
    I don't really have a problem with presentations. I think my original post got warped into something else. I'm talking about normal day-to-day conversations.

    Presentations are about recitation. I'm talking about improv.

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