Some time ago, Stephen – a friend of mine – shared a theory with me. For the ease of reference, I will call this theory The Inverse Law of Vocabulary Sophistication and Language Command, where it is hypothesized that the more sophisticated one’s choice of words are, the less likely that person is to actually have a good command of the language.
Simply put: people who are not good at a language are more likely to use unnecessarily complicated words at any given opportunity.
As Stephen told me that, he noted that it was especially a Chinese thing. Not an Asian thing, but a Chinese thing, specifically. The theory came from a friend of his, who was an examiner (let’s call him Samuel) – and legend has it that Samuel could tell a Chinese student’s paper apart from any other student’s paper just by looking the choice of words used. Apparently, Chinese students were far more susceptible to The Inverse Law of Vocabulary Sophistication and Language Command. If his description was anything to go by, the “average” Chinese student’s paper starts off like this:
“It was a glorious, magnificent morning when Johnny journeyed to the residence of his acquaintance in order to procure an item of his longing.”
Samuel likes to have a good laugh as he reads the entire paper, and then proceed to fail them immediately.
But wait – that sounds exactly like that I do! I like to use words like “romantic”, “figuratively”, “verbose”, and “juxtaposition”. Nevermind that I don’t actually know what 2 of those 4 words really mean – it just helps me to feel and sound so smart when I use them! So today, as a Chinese writer, I consider myself perfectly qualified to share with all of you: 5 words that will help absolutely anyone to sound smart – especially when applied liberally.
Here we go:
This really just means “silly” – but we’re trying to sound smart here, remember? Simply replace every instance of “silly” with “frivolous”, and watch in amazement as your work suddenly sound so clever!
Besides, calling something “silly” in an intelligent work just sounds so frivolous.
This one means “orderly behavior”, which already sounds smart enough as it is; and not only that, it’s two words long – perfect for that 6,000 word paper you need to send in by Monday afternoon! So why use “decorum” instead of “orderly behavior”? Allow me to explain:
No one needs a dictionary to understand what “orderly behavior” means.
There is a proper, complicated definition to this word – but who has time for that, right? The main thing you need to understand about this word is that it means a complete separation of two things: God and devil; man and woman; Superman and Batman. Just replace this word into every instance of “difference”, and you’ll be more or less on the right track!
This is what your sentence sounds like without “dichotomy”: There is a profound difference between the ways men and women function.
This is what your sentence sounds with with “dichotomy”: There is a profound dichotomy between the ways men and women function.
This one refers to the academic community – which includes professors, researchers, students, lecturers – pretty much everyone that you will try to impress with the amazing size of your vocabulary in this lifetime.
Definition: speech of writing that is overly long-winded or unnecessarily complicated.
Which would pretty much sum up the style of your writing after you have used all 5 words described in this post. If you have done it right, your work should sound something like this:
“Dear members of academia: this verbiage highlights the dichotomy between decorum and frivolous behavior.”
And there you go! Suddenly everything sounds so smart and worthy of study. Be sure to scatter several more instances of these words that you have just learned in other parts of your work, just to show the reader that you really do know how to use this words – and they will be undoubtedly impressed with how exotic your vocabulary is.
Just pray that your paper never passes through Samuel.