Words that make you sound smart

By Bryan • grad school, surp, urban planning • 8 Sep 2008

Some new vocabulary I picked up courtesy of the very academic read that is Peter Hall’s Cities of Tomorrow.

  • apologia – a formal defence or justification
  • gordian knot – an excedingly complicated problem or deadlock
  • acerbic – sour or bitter in taste
  • doggerel – crudely or irregularly fashioned verse, often of a humorous or burlesque nature.

Mr. Hall is a Sir which probably explains the rather pretentious and snobbish writing style that he chooses to employ.  It’s the often-present uber narcissism that really annoys me about the academic world and it is especially frustrating when found in a book about freaking urban planning! I prefer not to dig around in a dictionary and then find out that the word bitter would have been a perfectly good and acceptable substitute for  acerbic. Yes…I know that you are a smart fellow…but employing medieval English passages that refer in some abstract way to the built environment isn’t necessarily going to improve my future ability to address such problems…in some manner.  I suppose that this book is an example of the giant gulf between the realm of planning theory and planning practice – it would seem (from this book at least) that the theorists appear to place themselves on a pedestal above the petty practitioners.

Today was also the first time I’ve heard planning referred to as a practice and someone using the sentences “When I was practicing”…..not surprising given that it is my first day and I know nothing about anything.  I had always associated this verb with lawyers and doctors and other noble, high paying and respected professions…well…some could say that about the law profession.  I didn’t think that I would find myself in a position to one day actually use that term as well…I might be able to say “Yeah, well, down at the firm…”

Didn’t I just mention narcissism?

First AutoCAD class today – yup my triangle and line skillz are gonna need some work.  You could say I’m polygon on that subject (*cough*moron)

Aside from great words like polygon – here are some more words that will make you sound smarter than your professors and have have your peers skinning kittens and buring crosses just for some of your vocabulary godliness.

1. Epitome (noun): The best or most representative example of a class or type.
Example: “Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil.” –Elie Wiesel

2. Finagle (verb): To obtain or achieve something by cleverness or deviousness, especially in using words.
Example: “…She finagled to get meat during the war by finding a vegetarian family in the neighborhood and trading her vegetable ration card for their meat ration card.” –Maureen Dowd

3. Gregarious (adjective): Seeking and enjoying the company of others; sociable.
Example: “Biologically speaking, man is moderately gregarious, not a completely social animal–a creature more like a wolf…or an elephant, than like a bee or an ant.” –Aldous Huxley

4. Panacea (noun): A remedy for all diseases, evils or difficulties; a cure-all.
Example: “The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war.” –Ernest Hemingway

5. Perfunctory (adjective): Done routinely and with little interest or care.
Example: “Reforms in the civil service must go on, but the changes should be real and genuine, not perfunctory.” –President William McKinley

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4 Responses

  1. Sue Crosby

    ahhh wonderful words. Here’s another good one for you. It was actually in a Grade 3 story. Discombobulate. It means “to cause someone to become confused”. Perfect!

  2. Wow, that is a poorly formatted post…don’t know what happened there.

  3. I am discombobulated.

  4. angela

    didn’t finish reading…
    gee…made me feel stupid…

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