Sunday, February 27, 2011

I wish I could talk smart

When I'm writing, I'm generally pretty articulate, due in no small part to the ability to pause, think, then type whatever bit of nonsense is on my mind at the time. I can be picky with words. Words are important, and while I know a lot of them, I'm a little insecure with them. I want to be a hundred percent sure of a word's very most precise definition before I use it (I think that's why I admired The Road's vocabulary so much; Cormac McCarthy's language is eerily specific).

When I'm writing, I like to think of this as a talent. Generally I don't overstep my pathetic little shack of knowledge in the sprawling city that is the English language, and when I do, it is very carefully, usually with a friend, and I go equipped with only the very best anti-"You just made an ass of yourself" arsenal courtesy of the Oxford Dictionary.

When I'm speaking, it tends to be a problem.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not inarticulate (I hope). In fact, on some days I can get downright annoying (proven positive by several co-workers) in my attempt to keep expanding my vocabulary. You can never have too many words: never.

But other days my brain just completely shuts down. Or rather, my mouth does. I have all these really clever, salient things to say, and what comes out can often sound scarcely better than what might come out of a preschooler.

Example: The other day, I was trying to describe a scene in Amelie, and defaulted to the word "funnest" (which, I know, doesn't exist, or if it does, exists in a very shady back-alley of that city of language, one you wouldn't want to be lost in without a weapon or very large friend). Someone challenged me on it, and while mentally I was going "Yeah, absolutely.", what came out of my mouth was something like "Arg words hard today Matt not want."

I think it's because, when I think, I don't necessarily think in precise language so much as big nebulous clouds of vaguely connected intuitive bubbles. Which sounds ridiculous now that it's written down, but there you have it.

I'm not sure why I wrote this, except maybe as a brief apology for any time when I've ever A) started rambling incoherently or B) reduced to some kind of caveman-like grunting in the middle of conversation.

By the way, did you know what a "catamite" is? Me neither, 'till I read The Road. Apparently it's a young child in a relationship with an older man.

Seriously, McCarthy, now you're just showing off. We all get how smart you are.

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