New, better(?) vocabulary test

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Fraggle Rocker, Jul 20, 2011.

  1. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Did you check with your attorney? I'm fairly certain that material posted on a public message board cannot be copyrighted. The idea is just too silly. It's like painting a picture on the wall of a public parking lot and complaining if someone photographs it and sends it to a newspaper where it is printed in the Arts section.
     
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  3. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

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    I can't remember writing it, but it must be me or I wouldn't have signed it me, would I?

    (Chimpkin's not biting

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    Last edited: Jul 25, 2011
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  5. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

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    Using abstruse words unnecessarily is a sign to me of a limited vocabulary.
    Either that, or it indicates poor communication skills.

    It means that the person speaking has learned a word and is jamming it into her conversation/writing, without regard for the understanding of the listener.

    No point in that. Is there?

    One example of an abstruse word is the word abstruse itself, but is there a good, simpler alternative in a thesaurus?

    Abstruse
    Meaning: difficult to understand
    Synonyms: Greek to me, abstract, clear as dishwater, complex, complicated, deep, enigmatic, esoteric, heavy, hidden, incomprehensible, intricate, involved, muddy, obscure, perplexing, profound, puzzling, recondite, subtle, unfathomable, vague

    Later post.
    "If a person is using unnecessarily complex words, that is a sign to me of a limited vocabulary."

    That's a better first sentence, I think. Do you?
    There are possibly better formed options as well.
    Suggestions?
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2011
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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    People who know more than a couple of abstruse words usually have large vocabularies.
    More precisely, poor social skills. They're showing off. Sure, it's poor communication because most--or even all--of the people they're talking to won't understand them, which means they have failed to communicate. (Yeah I can't get "Cool Hand Luke" out of my mind now either.) But people with large vocabularies usually have good communication skills. But rather than using them, sometimes they'd rather just show off. Of course we can psychoanalyze this all day: Why do they feel the need to show off? Why do they want to build that little wedge between themselves and other people? Why do they want to resemble nine year-olds? Why don't the people they know already know how smart they are? What character flaws do they have that they compensate for by touting their intellectual prowess?
    For the current example, I'd pick "obscure" or "esoteric." Everybody I hang out with (including, surely, everyone who's reading this) knows what "esoteric" means but among strangers I'd probably stick with "obscure."
    I don't think "complex" is the best adjective to characterize the word "abstruse." It's only got two syllables. It's not a bewildering concatenation of several root morphemes like "deoxyribonucleic." It's pure Latin, not a clumsy hybrid of Latin and Greek like "television." It isn't a politically correct obfuscation of its intended meaning, like "pro-life" and "pro-choice."

    This is why I'd vote for "obscure," which it is to anyone who doesn't know it, or "esoteric," which it is even to people who do know it.
     
  8. Gustav Banned Banned

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    but frag did

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  9. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    Seems to miss the obvious aspect that "showing off" is a form of communication, in the first place. People who do such, are looking to communicate precisely that they are much smarter than their audience and so not to be treated as a peer.
     
  10. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

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    I don't necessarily care if it's reprinted.

    *shrug*

    But if I don't get to make any money off of it, nobody else does either.

    I have suspected that Kremmen was one of my dissociative alters for some time...how this other personality has managed to "bump" me from steering the body and sneak around here so cleverly I can't quite fathom.

    OK, the jig is up. I'm onto your little game, mister.
     
  11. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

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    This is what annoys me about Western philosophy...pretentiousness taken to the extreme.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2011
  12. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Probably, in this case, but it doesn't mean the same thing.

    Say what you mean, as best you can, would be the normal advice.

    If you can replace your use of "abstruse" with "complex", "profound", or "abstract", you probably didn't mean abstruse.

    The truism is that English has only two synonyms: "gorse" and "furze".
     
  13. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    addendum: vocabulary seems to be fragmenting, modern times. I have picked up many words from various jobs and studies over the years, that I have never encountered elsewhere - if some test compiler happens to have spent time on a sailing boat or in a machine shop, working as a carpenter or insurance underwriter or railroad engineer, their compilation might be affected significantly.

    Common vocabulary might be shrinking, at the same time each individual vocabulary is increasing on average.
     
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    This is just another phenomenon caused by the march of civilization. Back in the days when more than 99% of the human population were farmers (which wasn't that long ago, it was still around 97% in the late 19th century), everybody had pretty much the same vocabulary. Variances from region to region would concentrate in the category of nouns: different plants, animals, weather, geographical features, etc. And since each region had its own language (and still does although the regions are larger), there were probably very few words that were not universal throughout one language community.

    Today (in the developed nations) only 3% of the population are farmers. The other 97% of us have jobs in myriad other industries and professions. Each one has its own lexicon, so of course people who work in a drywall factory know words that people who work in an upholstery shop, a real estate brokerage, an auto repair shop, a stock exchange or a hospital would never have learned. Even farmers have a much larger, more specialized vocabulary then their forebears, since the reason so few people can now feed so many is that their jobs have been leveraged by technology like everyone else's--from the domesticated draft animal to the iron plow to the cotton gin to the tractor to vaccines to genetic engineering.

    The evolution of civilization has broken down the old tribal boundaries between communities. Even we old folks can see the inevitable one-world-civilization in those tiny windows on our cellphones--the real-time image of a young lady shot down in the street in a country we claim we don't even like very much made us cry and write songs about her because dammit she didn't look much different from our own grandchildren. But instead it's creating new boundaries between virtual communities that we create consciously: professions, hobbies, sports fans, tastes in entertainment, politics, religion. Each one has its own set of words.

    The spread of literacy, which was limited to priests, aristocrats and their subsidized scholars before the invention of the printing press, brings us all in touch routinely with new words. This has vastly expanded our passive vocabulary (words we understand) well beyond our active vocabulary (words we use in our own speech or writing).

    Vocabulary tests obviously only test passive vocabulary.

    Nonetheless, I felt that the people who created the one I linked to in this thread had done a very good job of dealing with jargon. I'd say there's a core vocabulary of words that anyone might encounter in an average day of reading the popular press and browsing the internet. Beyond that there are a few erudite or jargon words, which I assume were chosen evenly from a wide variety of professions, hobbies, academic specialties, etc. I recognized a couple from biology and other disciplines in which I work or dabble, so it's reasonable to assume that they included a wide spectrum and don't give more credit to computer programmers than to sociologists.
     
  15. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    I don't recall seeing any words from the common trades.

    The problem comes in the extrapolation to total vocabulary and comparison between people - a very large percentage of the high end variance rides on the selection criteria, and they seem to me to be missing large pools of words that a lot of people know.
     
  16. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

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    Hindi is much more than a regional language of Delhi areas. It is much more widely understood across India. Though English is the language of govt and business, it is not whole of it. In office you spend only a limited time, even there Hindi gets spoken. In markets, public transport, dealing with a green grocer etc English is not useful, rather it is a liability. Every person who has done high school does know Hindi. English may be language of business, but Hindi is language of daily survival. That is the reason why foreign tourists carry guide book listing Hindi equivalents of various terms of daily use.

    Fraggle, our language is a peculiar mix of English and Hindi terms.
     
  17. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    You don't have to tell me that. As an IT professional, most of the people I work with are from India. My current project has three native-born Euro-Americans, one Ethiopian, one Iranian, one Filipina and seven Indians. (Some of these people are naturalized citizens so they are now Americans and I would refer to them as such in general conversation, but this conversation is about language.)
    I never hear them speak Hindi with each other. Several speak Telugu and they speak that among themselves. But when the larger group assembles, they speak English, not Hindi--even in social circumstances, not just professional. One fellow is even from the northwest and Hindi is his regional language, but he does not urge the group to speak Hindi.

    Perhaps it's different in India. As I have noted before, people who leave their country and come to live here are not necessarily a representative sample of the population.
     
  18. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

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    Most of Indians in America in IT biz are Telugu speaking, Brahmins at that. If four-five speak Telugu, you can guess.

    Nor will that fellow fron NW India urge others to speak in Hindi. Hec will quickly catch on.

    Then daily survival is ensured by their English. Here I emphasise language of daily survival. English in USA, Hindi in New Delhi. Of course a N. Indian living Chennai will need to know a bit a Tamil.

    There is a counter-survival too. Casual visitors can survive on a very minimal knowledge of local language, sure. But what about the local operators? They will need to communicate with those visitors so their biz survives. Is it any surprise that that places thronged by N. Indians find "every one" knowing Hindi!! MONEY is a great agent of change.

    I run a tourist business. MY staff, even drivers, can converse in English, not Oxford level, but enough to make you feel at home. Is it a surprise that my drivers, sub High school, know English!! SURVIVAL.


    Indians can be deceptive. They show one facet which you want to see, and they judge it rapidly and accurately. Another facet they SHALL not show you. IT geeks or Gujarati diamond barons of Brussels.

    But yes. Conditions in India are different.
     
  19. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    That has been said about every people from the Acadians to the Zimbabweans. Often by themselves.

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