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Blueroses's avatar

Is it better to speak simply to prove a point than to use words incorrectly?

Asked by Blueroses (18191points) February 15th, 2012

I have been watching a lot of “real” court TV lately.

It seems that people try very hard to use what they think is impressive language for the judge, but they use the words in the wrong ways. Examples:
1) My husband tried to make up but his brother was beyond recomprehension.” think she meant beyond reconciliation

2) I guess I’ll have to recant my money elsewhere I think she meant recoup.

3) He took my money with fraudulous intentionce. we know what he meant, but…

What is it about being in front of authority that makes people speak outside of their comfort zone? Isn’t it better to simply state your case?

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14 Answers

Aethelflaed's avatar

Yes, unless it’s not incorrect usage so much as new usage or a neologism.

It’s court tv: clearly, these people already have something wrong with them, seeing as how they’ve chosen to go on court tv.

SavoirFaire's avatar

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

Speaking simply gets the point across without confusing the issue. Misusing words often fails to get the point across and almost always causes confusion. Like I tell my students: “the problems we’re dealing with are complicated enough already; let’s not make things worse by talking about them in code.”

Blueroses's avatar

Yes, @Aethelflaed, new usage like verbing a noun (I’ll friend you) is different. I’m pretty sure the people on “real”, unscripted court tv are there because their judgement will be paid by the network, but that’s a different question (and one I want to ask).

augustlan's avatar

I know quite a few people in real life who use ‘big’ words incorrectly. I’m pretty sure they think they’re using the words the right way, or they wouldn’t use them at all. How do they pick up the wrong meaning, I wonder? Maybe I should start asking them…

I once knew a teacher who routinely used the wrong word (for instance, “medallion” for “battalion”, or “thunder” for “lightning”), but I think that’s a different problem.

I have a similar problem with pronunciation… I’ll know what a word means from having read it multiple times, but, never having heard it spoken, I will say it aloud and bungle the pronunciation. So embarrassing!

Aethelflaed's avatar

@augustlan I will often confuse the pronunciation of certain words with a word that sounds similar, but is inevitably more sexual. Like, organism/orgasm, phallic/fallacious, etc. You know, just for maximum embarrassment, so that the conversation grinds to a screeching halt and I don’t even realize I’ve done it.

augustlan's avatar

@Aethelflaed Haha, that one hasn’t happened to me yet. Now that it’s in my head, though, it surely will!

Blueroses's avatar

Oh. I can see where confusing phallic and fallacious could be an epic win!

yeah, you whispered it, but I still heard you

lemming's avatar

I think the most important thing is communication…although if you are using words incorrectly there is the danger that you will communicate the wrong thing of course. I’m not very good with words so I like to think that communication is the most important thing.

Bellatrix's avatar

I really hate when I am in the middle of a sentence (usually with someone I don’t want to consider me a complete idiot) and I say something and then that voice in my head says “was that the right word? Did I just use the wrong word?”. Too late to do anything but keep going of course, so I usually do. It doesn’t happen often, but it has happened and I can’t even remember what the words were now.

Blueroses's avatar

@Bellatrix I’ve had those moments. Usually, I have my internal editor to ask me “are you sure, effluvium is the word?” And if I’m not totally sure, I’ll replace with “stuff coming out of that”.

It seems to me that it is better to NOT use words you aren’t comfortable using.

I mean, if I’m talking with an expert, I don’t ever notice if s/he is using regular language to describe something.

I DO notice when people use the wrong words and I can understand what they’re going for. My judgmental side comes out when the words are so wrong.
As in my example, (I’ll have to recant my money elsewhere.) Come on. You heard that word somewhere and you thought you’d break it out to impress the judge. In trying to look educated, you end up looking worse than if you’d said it simply: (Guess I’ll get my money some other way)

Bellatrix's avatar

Oh I agree, but sometimes, you think you are quite comfortable and then that internal editor comes in and says “are you sure?” And then you second guess yourself. It might be right, but the damage is done because your brain is now going “oh my…did I use the wrong word?” I know this is totally not answering your question! Sorry… I agree, it is better to not use long words to try to impress unless you know what they mean.

I see student essays with incorrect words used. Sometimes it can be very funny. I wish I could remember some examples.

jca's avatar


I try to do this on Fluther as well as in real life.

6rant6's avatar

It’s pretty embarrassing to realize you’ve misused a word. On the other hand if we only use the words we are completely confidadle about how will we ever progresserate encabulate uplinguify?

Bellatrix's avatar

Absolutamont @6rant6!

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