How Intelligently Do You Talk

It takes effort to find a simple word when a more complex word comes to your brain first. I have used niggardly in conversation because in that moment stingy wasn’t the default word.

In my work I communicate with a large spectrum of humans. People with little more than a grade school education to the extremely educated. Yes, I do tailor my conversation so that my listener can understand.

It’s wrong, however, to dumb down your vocabulary as a general rule to the lowest common denominator. I love language and love words. If we didn’t learn new words, we’d soon be communicating in grunts and groans.

I find it odd that you’re equating the questions “How Intelligently Do You Talk?” and “How high is your vocabulary in most of your conversations?”

Speaking plainly is not ‘dumbing down’. Let’s say I want to describe a particular ‘yellow’ in a very vivid manner. If the only word I can think of is an obscure word like 'aureate ', then maybe my vocab isn’t as big as I like to think. Someone who can automatically pull a word like ‘saffron’ or ‘lemony’ or ‘ash blond’ or whatever; they are likely possessing a large vocabulary, all the while giving clear communication, vivid detail, and colorful language.

Again, I understand the desire to indulge when you are a lover of words. But I don’t think it is ‘dumbing down’ to express yourself plainly.

I think I generally use language that’s accessable to others, but I temper the use of the occasional obscure adjective by admitting when I don’t know what something means*. I like to believe that it makes others feel comfortable asking too, since several people have asked what something or other I’ve said means.

Beyond wanting to make myself clear, I really dislike people who try to make themselves sound brilliant by spouting out things they think others won’t follow…and secretly delight when they misuse the big words they’ve pulled out. One of my coworkers used to do this and pontificate at length over everything (a good way to make people think you’re an asshole is to go into lecture mode every time you open your mouth). He’s a lot more bearable now that he’s stopped doing it nearly as often.
*just today I asked someone what they meant when they used the word creche, since I was thinking of the “daycare” definition and she was talking about what I eventually realized was a nativity set. Come on, you’d of been confused by the casual mention of a penguin daycare too!

A penguin nativity scene, on the other hand…:confused:

Sidney Crosby=Hockey Jesus! :smiley:

I actually have this problem, as well. I generally have to make a concious effort, especially in the workplace, to speak at a lower level than I am able to, in order not to set myself apart from my partners. Because of the line of work that I am in, it would be… dangerous for my partners to think that I believe myself better than them. Thus I do my best to speak colloquially rather than in the manner in which I would prefer. I do, however, occasionally use words like “colloquial”, just because I find it amusing.

Just the same, I also enjoy cursing more than I ought to, which helps me fit right in at work. :smiley:

I really try to follow this rule. One notable exception was when, back in my very early 20s, when I was working as a topless dancer, I was totally talked down to buy a guy asserting that I didn’t have a “real” job. He then went on about how awesome his job was, as a MOVER. I proceeded to elevate my vocabulary well above his intentionally so that he kept having to ask me what words meant. It was awesome. I only did it to put him back into his place, though, after his claiming that I was shit for the job I had (which he did–my previous summary didn’t go into detail.)

Well Mark Twain once said that the difference between exactly the right word and a word that’s almost the right word is the difference between the lighting and the lightning bug. And he should know, his books were 20% higher in lightning than just about anyone else’s. So when I speak I try to match the vernacular of my audience, except of course if I get a shot at one of them lightning words that’s exactly right, I’ll use it, no matter how niggardly or erogenous it makes my speech sound. This means I’ll often look at what I’ve written or said and think,’ "Now what the hell did I mean by that? But them’s the breaks! Keeps you on your toes!

I default to a lower vocabulary, the point where it has become my home, but, I do find my vocabulary increases when I speak to more erudite individuals.

It doesn’t work as well on a message board, though. I used to feel bad that my vocabulary sucked on here, but I decided it didn’t matter, and got over it.

My job is 90% communicating ideas and concepts. As such I have to watch my level of jargon constantly.

To me, clarity and brevity are the real signs of genius. If you can explain it simply then you probably understand it.

The proof of that would be the unmitigated balls of many philosphical, theological and new-age publications. They seem to equate more words with more cleverness. This is rarely the case.

I try not to dumb what I’m saying down. I try never to underestimate my audience. I also absolutely love it when someone I am talking to uses a word that’s not out of our usual 2,000 or so speaking words. Another thing I love is if I use a word that’s out of the way - “eschew” for example - and the other person picks it up in the next sentence and uses it back to me. Kind of like spotting a rare bird in the wild.

I have had people stop me and ask what a particular word means. It happened with “somnolent” the other week. They’ve had to get a dictionary and I’m perfectly happy with that.

Are…are you in the Mob?

I’m not very good at changing up to suit my audience. I think it comes across as disingenuous. I don’t care if people don’t like me. Well, I do care to some extent. What I really don’t want is for people to think I’m phony - although I think that ends up being the result anyway.

I have an odd accent that people seem to think is vaguely English. I’ve heard myself on recordings and I don’t see it. I spent some time in England at one point and love British television and I have a very hard time understanding them most of the time. But I think this where part of the ‘phony’ comes from.

Besides that, I use whatever words come to mind when speaking. Many would be considered bookish and not appropriate for normal conversation, but since they are second nature to me, I almost never catch myself. I think that’s where the rest of the ‘phony’ comes from - ‘why did he say bifurcation if he meant fork?’ That’s a bad example, but you get the idea.

Maybe there is something about the contrast in my speech that puts people off. When I was younger I went out of my way to get in touch with my blue collar roots and I curse very freely - I just tend to enunciate a little better than most people when I do. I guess that by itself is a little odd. Saying ‘the mother fucking (properly enunciated) bifurcation’ I guess is even stranger.

After living in Japan for 20 years, mostly speaking Japanese? No. I’ve forgotten so many words I sound like an idiot.

The net helps, though, just very few people around who would be able to understand anything out of the ordinary.

That’s so esoteric.

Care to chime in with your own answer?

Yup. That is talking intelligently.

In the UK, snigger’s not a word that only someone with a large vocabulary would use - it’s completely normal.

I am a very fluent speaker, rarely pausing, backtracking or using non-standard grammar like most people naturally do when talking normally. This makes me sound much more intelligent than I really am.

I agree with this right here. I also agree with Czarcasm but I think it’s the first time I have ever agreed with Czarcasm and I am certainly not going to admit agreeing with Czarcasm right now.

This. Except at work, where we’re a bunch of writers/English majors. Then we try to top each other.