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Dec 8, 2010
This week's theme
What to avoid when using words

This week's words
pleonasm
apophasis
sesquipedality
periphrasis
paralipsis

Sesquipedalian beans
Sesquipedalian beans
Photo: Xiaolu Hou

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

sesquipedality

PRONUNCIATION:
(ses-kwi-pi-DAL-i-tee)

MEANING:
noun: The practice of using long words.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin sesqui- (one and a half) + ped- (foot). First recorded use: 1759.

NOTES:
Literally speaking, sesquipedality is using words that are one and a half feet long. A related word is sesquicentennial (150th anniversary). Nothing wrong with using a sesquipedalian word once in a while, if it fits, but it's best to avoid too many long, polysyllabic words. This dictum doesn't apply to German speakers though, as Mark Twain once observed, "Some German words are so long that they have a perspective."

There's a bean subspecies commonly known as a yardlong bean. It's really misnamed as it's "only" half a yard long. Its scientific name, Vigna unguiculata subsp. sesquipedalis, is more precise.

USAGE:
"The stories in Oblivion comprise relatively straightforward prose, with textual play and sesquipedality trimmed to the bone."
Tim Feeney; Oblivion; Review of Contemporary Fiction; Jul 2004.

See more usage examples of sesquipedality in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
In a free country there is much clamor, with little suffering: in a despotic state there is little complaint but much suffering. -Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot, statesman and engineer (1753-1823)

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