Friday, October 07, 2005

Wordplay

Hey – Lawyers love blogs!

It starts out “[i]nside every lawyer, it is said, there is a brilliant writer, held back by professional ambition or by fear of failure. Nowhere is that truism more evident than in the explosion of online blogs by, for and about lawyers.” Ooh, yes, This made me feel better because, in fact, I am a lawyer. And I am not held back by personal ambition, so that is good! Maybe somehow the brilliant will come out?

Actually, I have been waiting for the brilliance for a while now. Ever since I didn’t make girls ensemble or the varsity hockey team, I’ve been waiting for that moment to shine. I keep looking out for that special talent that is going to make me superlative in some way. I know, if I actually applied myself and practiced I might actually achieve a respectable level of success. Instead, I’m going for the lotto approach. This is why I always hold off a bit, keep a few things on the back burner for that rainy day when I can discover that I am the fair isle mitten knitter master of the universe! Or something like that.

As I wait for the gift to present itself, I do things like cook food and knit stuff and read books. But I fear that as time goes by I’m actually getting stupider. When I was a wee pre-teen nerd, my vocabulary seemed extensive. I wowed teachers and adults right and left with my use of words like "versatile", "congenial", and "sesquapedalianism". I knew the difference between which and that, the correct use of the you're/your/youse guys'/y'all's, and how to diagram a sentence.

But since I left the cozy nest of academia, (or perhaps its all the wine), I've felt bits of brain turning to ooze and losing their powers. There are certain words I've noticed a lot of people throwing around in smartypants cocktail conversation lately and I have no idea what these words mean.

Bildungsroman
: is a novel which traces the spiritual, moral, psychological, or social development and growth of the main character from (usually) childhood to maturity. (I cant even pronounce this one – who the hell says this! Except they really do, I’ve heard it.)

(Hmmm, a shout out to all you pretentious writers and perhaps some of my acquaintances, "you keep using that word. I do not think that word means what you think it means.")

Schadenfreude : Schadenfreude is usually believed to not have a direct English equivalent. (Ha – this makes me feel better!) It is defined as pleasure taken from someone else's misfortune or "shameful joy".

(This one was in Avenue Q and now everyone is throwing it around like they invented the word. Here I am using it correctly: “I feel great schadenfreude that you just totally misused the word bildungsroman.”)

Gestalt
: a German word meaning shape or form, in English, gestalt refers to the concept where an entity's properties cannot be discovered from the total properties of its parts.

(Ok – people DEFINITELY have been misusing this one right and left, this is not at all what I thought it meant. I'm comforted in the fact that at least I'm not wandering around misusing all these words in public, but only in the privacy of my own head!)

Furthermore, I would just like to note that all of these are German words – is there some kind of trend among those who wish to appear intellectual that compels them to use German? Is this cool? What next, lederhosen?

Torpor : is a state of mental or physical inactivity or insensibility, lethargy or apathy, and, in animals, a regulated hypothermia in an endotherm lasting just a few hours. A state of mental or physical inactivity or insensibility.
To be honest, this one has always been a problem for me. I got it wrong on the PSATs (see, I am a big nerd for remembering this and being bitter about it) and then AGAIN on the SATs (but not such a big nerd that I actually learned the definition).

And sometimes I think people in the office don’t quite understand words like “tweak.” These words are supposed to mean something like “make minor modifications”, not “completely rewrite this entire damn memo just because I didn’t explain the assignment to you correctly in the first place.” Or something like that, you know.

And there is never a need to use Latin lawyer words like pari passu or res ipsa loquitur. I may perhaps be of the lawyerish persuasion but I have no idea what those things mean. There are perfectly acceptable English translations – stop showing off!

Reader(s), any words you’d like to add? It’s the weekend – are you going to a cocktail with any snooty types? Keep your ears open and cultivate your own little garden of pet peeves.

3 comments:

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Ashley said...

hee hee hee--I say Bildungsroman ALL THE TIME! But then, I get paid to talk about 19th-century novels all day. I probably wouldn't bust it out at a cocktail party or anything. Probably.

Stephanie said...

I'm the office manager at a law firm, and I have to type the phrase "Special Master" a lot, most of the time while stifling my giggles. What's better is that the Special Master one attorney deals with is a woman - RIGHT ON!!!

Hope your marathon training is going well. It's coming up soon!