Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Yes, You Have An Amazing Vocabulary. You Can Stop Showing Off Now.

Georgina hands the baby to Auxillia, her aptronymic nanny.

This sentence, from the otherwise spectacular book When A Corocodile Eats the Sun, is a perfect example of how not to write.

First of all, let's dispense with an obvious task and define the word aptronymic, a showoff word that perhaps one in ten thousand people might know. An aptronym is simply a name that is perfectly apt. And thus the joke here is that Auxillia truly is an apt name for a nanny.

It's witty, yes, but the pretentiousness kills the humor. There is absolutely no reason to send 99.99% of your readers running to their dictionaries when you could use a perfectly understandable word in its place. Try "aptly-named" instead, and 100% of your readers will both understand it and get the joke.

Don't be a showoff. Write to your readers, not to the vocabulary gods.