You Can’t Spell Articulate Without Arctic

Many people comment on my vocabulary.

In person, I suppose people don’t expect to hear words like vilified, sordid, uncouth, saturnine, benevolent, recalcitrant, clandestine, or derision. I love those sorts of words, but I’m careful with my use of them; I don’t go out of my way to use big or rare words, I actually go out of my way to use the exact word that expresses what I am trying to convey. My hyper-extended vocabulary is a direct symptom of my anxiety about not being able to say what I mean. It turns me into the Maya Angelou of petty diatribes, the Ayn Rand of personal coaching.

My words have gotten me in trouble too. In a class at my University I was once passed back a paper riddled with irritated red commentary. A great deal of it derided my vocabulary as an obstruction to the clarity of my points. My paper was a commentary on a series of very dense global theory essays and completely acclimated to their own verbose tones, and my professor was a severe little Asian girl with an incredible mind, unparalleled lingual abilities and a diploma from Cornell. And my words were too confusing for her. This sounds boastful but I really don’t mean it that way. You’ve got to believe me! It’s not even boasting incognito as self-deprecation!

Everyone I tell this story to is at first outraged and then impressed. Rarely do I see my own reaction reflected; simmering bemusement because I happen to agree with my professor–a piece’s vernacular correlating with its accessibility is something good writers are aware of. I think she sought out a disparity that made my words seem forced, and graded me within that context. You see, I am a somewhat underestimated person (which I enjoy). People see me and expect show tunes, sarcasm, fashion commentary, too many accessorizes, and references to things like Glee and Lady Gaga. And they’re right to expect it, because they’ll receive it if they ask, but for whatever reason they see the former behaviors as mutually exclusive with other behaviors; an immense obsession with group behavioral patterns, an affinity for collecting rare and exact words and (I guess) the ability to converse in the language of pretentious (and useless) global theory.

Later in the semester this particular professor got used to me. I think she figured out that I wasn’t faking it, that my clear plastic bubble umbrella and loudly colored wardrobe didn’t preclude stupidity and could actually be held in tandem with an eager mind. People find it hard to attribute outrageous styling with intellect. I’m not sure I would want to make a claim to either, but I know enough about my life that I’m starting to sense a presupposed dissonance between the two. But I like that. I like to roll around in that dissonance. I like to polarize those extremes as a form of spite. Spite against what, though?

Spite against the fashionable idiots and the drab intellects who are convinced they must sacrifice one for the other. Ha! Suckers. Congrats on your self-sustained limits. I would rather perform unintelligibly intelligent derision while vacuum sealed into an bejeweled wedding bustier and hoop skirt than in one of those histrionic graduation gowns and stupid tasseled hats; and maybe that’s intellectual depravity, but I’ll tell you what; No one ever disagrees with drag queens or brides, and everyone feels at least SOME agony when they realize they are in agreement with the drably dressed and unkempt activist droning about conspiracies and The Machine.


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