Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Today I think I’ll use… Sesquipedalian


It’s fun to use obscure literary and rhetorical terms that nobody knows for techniques that we use all the time.

All sesquipedalian really is is using incredibly long, multisyllabic words. Here’s a good example:

“Sadly, the Constitution has become the apotheosis of floccinaucinihilipilification — little more than a framed shoeshine rag.”

(Kevin Brennan, What The Hell)

Not only does a super long word make you look smarter than you probably are, but it also adds a dash of the funny to otherwise milquetoast sentences.

It really works, doesn’t it? Pretty cool.

Go ahead and be a sesquipedalian today!

4 comments on “Today I think I’ll use… Sesquipedalian

  1. pinklightsabre
    February 24, 2015

    This doesn’t exactly correlate to your post but in some ways, it does. My wife and I are learning German, as we are moving there for a year, this summer. We have about the world’s worst text book it seems. In the first chapter, that deals with numbers, they write “German numbers above twelve are seldom written out, except on checks. When they are written out, however, they are written as one word, no matter how long:

    234 567: zweihundertvierunddreißigtausendfünfhundertsiebenundsechzig.”


    1: Isn’t that a sign of a bad book, to expose you to something so sphincter-clinching as that? Isn’t the point to draw you in, to make you think it’s possible to learn it even though it’s likely you will balk, because the truth is, it is really friggin’ hard?

    2. Doesn’t this reveal how important white space is, to just give us some relief? How can the brain swallow that much at one time?

    My favorite long word isn’t English, it’s Chinese: Ren Shen Fen Weng Jiang, and I jam it all together to sound like one word, to get people to pay attention to me.

    • Kevin Brennan
      February 24, 2015

      German is weird and wild in the compound word department, that’s for sure. I like Freundschaftsbezeigungen, personally.

      Interesting stuff, because I was taught via writers like John Gardner to use short, straightforward, Anglo-Saxon words mainly. I guess that doesn’t mean you can’t add a little Aufregung to your sentences with some long Latinates! (Or Germanates, or Chinesenates…)

  2. sknicholls
    February 24, 2015

    Such words annoy me when reading, especially antiquated archaic language is used frequently. I like to learn while I read, but if I have to look up every third word I’m going to put the book down. I don’t think the author is smarter, to the contrary, they were stupid enough to have to use a thesaurus to write. Nobody talks like that. Sorry, but that’s a pet peeve of mine. Used in humorous dialogue by an amusing character okay…but as a general rule, yuck!

    • Kevin Brennan
      February 24, 2015

      A little goes a long way. Same with very long paragraphs: When I see two or three pages with no breaks, I go, “I’m not gonna like this!”

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This entry was posted on February 24, 2015 by in Writing and tagged .
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