In recent weeks my children have decided that their favorite TV show is the cartoon Caillou. This isn’t a problem, the show tries hard to teach life lessons to preschool and younger children. These lessons have included thrilling topics such as the ever vague, “Use your imagination”, the slightly less vague, “Sometimes the cat gets lost”, and the ever popular “Wheel thrown pottery is fun for young kids.” No, I am not making any of these up.
One of the available episodes is supposed to be focused on words and vocabulary. In the intro segment Caillou’s trio of favorite toys (reincarnated as puppets) do a brief sketch to emphasize the theme. In this episode they decide that they will learn a new word everyday. So far so good. The teddy bear cracks open the dictionary and chooses the word “plethora”. Again I can’t complain, I like the word plethora. Then the dinosaur chooses his word.
Not kidding. This is a preschool show.
If my child used this word in public people would think that they were speaking in tongues. For those interested, pulchritudinous means beautiful – although it sounds an awful lot like a skin disease.
There are times where having a bounteous vocabulary can serve a writer very well. A hefty multi-syllabic word might be just the thing to add needed interest or intellectualism to a written work. However – and this is a big however – know that sending readers to consult a dictionary is not a way to win friends or influence people. Most don’t have the time or interest to do so anyway. This means readers lost, and we all know that is never a good thing.
So before you are tempted to hit that handy thesaurus up for a whopper of a word, think twice. Your clever attempt might be stultified.