Say “No” to Vocabularisation

Dilhan Salgado D’Arcy investigates the vernacular of the pretentious intelligentsia.

“Hobbes’s intrinsically androcentric viewpoint may have influenced his interpretation of the state as an anthropoid being.”

This is a sentence I came across when reviewing a recent essay of mine. Amidst a minefield of typos, incorrect grammar and misplaced apostrophes, it stood proudly as an example of profound intellectualised bullshit.

It’s not that it didn’t make sense. Unless the monotony of editing and re-editing had hammered any sense of understanding from my brain, it seemed to fit my argument. It was sound, relevant and had plenty of evidence to support it . So why did it seem so bizarre?

I think it’s because the sentence had come into being from what I like to call vocabularisation – the process of using words, phrases and idioms that serve little purpose other than the attempt to convince others that you are infinitely more intelligent and more worldly than they are.

In basically all other aspects of real life, conflicts can devolve towards snarky comments, moaning, or – a personal student favourite – passive aggressive note writing. However, this rarely results in calling our adversary an “intrinsically androcentric anthropoid.”

So why does it happen in university? Why use words that we would never use in conversation, or indeed, anywhere else? Simply by delving a little further, this phenomenon can be seen everywhere: in essays, academic articles or lectures from your particularly pretentious professor. Moreover, no one seems to question it. We, as students, blindly swallow the convoluted jargon thrown at us and then seem all to willing to adopt it ourselves, littering our work with words and sentences that would make any rational human being cry.

It can be in no doubt that St Andrews is a highly competitive university. A simple glance at the acceptance rate from every nervous student writing their application is enough to confirm this. But being here, living here, surrounded by peers who are as, if not more, intelligent than you is an intimidating experience. And so, in order to convince ourselves and others that our offer here wasn’t actually an administrative error, we get creative. We vocabularise.

Alongside the blank, expectant screen, a thesaurus.com tab stands above, like a comforting pat on the shoulder. In fact, it is virtually impossible to write an essay without it. Every sentence written, every point raised and every argument put forward can be transformed into a piece of enlightening academic prose.

And so the illusion is maintained. We pretend. Our peers pretend. Our lecturers pretend. And all of us pretend that none of us are pretending.

I’m sure I’m not the only one to have been in this situation, re-reading something i’d written and being totally dumbstruck by it’s flamboyant verbosity. It’s not that I was impressed at my newfound ability to vocabularise. Quite the opposite – I was horrified at how obnoxious it sounded. That I, who had always prided myself on the ability to get straight to the point, had produced something so utterly feigned and pompous.

So goodbye to the “intrinsically androcentric anthropoid.” Let us cast off the shackles of thesaurus.com, do away with our desperation to appear as intelligent as everyone else. We were accepted into St Andrews because someone, somewhere down the line, thought that we stood out, that we were different from the pile of other applications on their desk. We deserve to be here and no amount of vocabularising is needed to prove it.

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3 thoughts on “Say “No” to Vocabularisation

  1. As a votary of sesquipedalian verbiage myself, I am anaspeptic, frasmotic, even compunctuous to have caused the author such pericombobulations. Please accept my sincerest contradinfabularities!

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