Day 22: Welcome to the VOCABULARY ZONE!

“F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work, The Great Gatsby, is meant to drive home Fitzgerald’s belief that the upper class of society is riddled with coxcombs and arrogant men. Between Tom and Daisy’s apathy and disdain towards others to Gatsby’s failure to realize his dream because of the invisible barrier of class, Nick is inadvertently exposed to the rampant imperiousness and arrogance of the American ruling class. The events that transpire between Nick’s first glimpse of Gatsby and Gatsby’s sudden murder alter Nick’s entire personality; where he had once been content to sit back and observe the goings-on of the elite, he has now been repulsed from their opulent and fastuous lifestyle, and wants no part in understanding the inner workings of their minds. Tom and Daisy, though fashionable and well-established rich folk, are represented as pococurante and selfish, while Gatsby, the newest member of the aristocratic class, is portrayed as honest, hard-working and true to his word. Examples of Fitzgerald’s disdain for the wealthy can be found throughout the novel, and they have been placed there on purpose. Fitzgerald cleverly places incriminating evidence throughout the novel to lend credence to his argument that the descendants of America’s mandarins — and those they associate with — are inherently shallow and elitist.”

This paragraph (emphasis added) is why I didn’t get 100% on my 10th-grade English paper on The Great Gatsby.

WordPress is telling me my writing “Needs improvement.”

Cut my 15-year-old self some slack, buddy. Gosh.

Still: What a glowing example of what misusing vocabulary does to your writing. It makes it gross.

The bolded words were all found in The Thinker’s Thesaurus, a powerful vocabularic tool that becomes remarkably stupid when wielded by an amateur. There’s a time when all of these words are appropriate to use (maybe not coxcombs), but that time will never show up in a sophomore English paper.

Bringing us to the topic at hand—


Our Praxis Monday call this week was with Greg Ragland, founder of Vocabulary Zone, a software which aims to improve your vocabulary. It operates under the notion that having an expansive vocabulary—and knowing how to use it—is essential to maximum career success. His talk was compelling, and he had quite a bit of evidence to support the theory, but I think Mr. Ragland skips a point of correlation in his sales pitch: High-level executives aren’t successful because of their large vocabularies—they’re successful because of the traits that led them to acquire said vocabularies.

Greg made the point that prolific reading is highly correlated with having a large working (or “active,” as he described it) vocabulary, which in turn is correlated with career success. It seems more plausible, though, that someone who reads a book a week has more of a capacity to be highly successful simply because they are the sort of person who can read a book a week while also dealing with the rest of life.

Perhaps this is my natural aversion to shortcuts rearing its head. I’m also mildly nauseated by the salesy language used on the Vocabulary Zone site. But I do think there’s something to the idea that the capacity to do work has much more to do with success than appearing to possess that capacity.

Back to work tomorrow. How admirable-amazing-astonishing-awesome-brilliant-cool-enjoyable-excellent-fabulous-fantastic-fine-incredible-magnificent-marvelous-outstanding-phenomenal-pleasant-pleasing-remarkable-sensational-strange-superb-surprising-terrific-tremendous-wondrous.

Quantity over quality. Something like that.


This Post Has One Comment

  1. Well said

Leave a Reply

Close Menu