O Lingua Franca!


The lovely Laurel—who is letting me share her house during my sojourn in Phoenix—commented a couple days ago that I seem to be on a vocabulary-extending kick.

She asked if it was my New Year’s resolution, or something, to use fancy words at least once a day.

This was funny to me, coming from Laurel, whose dog is named after a marginal figure in the Aeneid, whose conversation references Greek philosophical texts the way other people’s references Buzzfeed.

"No," I told her, "it’s just that I’ve finally come to a place where I can use words like this and not have to explain them afterward."

Laurel and most of her friends are teachers at a classical charter school. What this means—in addition to a lot of vintage corduroy, unironically passionate poetry readings, and drunken singalongs of folk tunes I thought had expired in a railroad car during the Roosevelt administration—is that you can use the kind of words that would get you beat up in fifth grade and…wait for it…

Nobody notices.

The conversation continues.

Not only uninterrupted, but expedited, by your choice of language.

And does it surprise you to learn that fancy-ass words actually help restore the ironic delight afforded by hashtag-speak?

Tim Willard recently offered a penny for my thoughts on the use of one-word emphatics in social media. (He wanted the woman’s point of view, see.) 

A month ago, I might have taken the opportunity to spit nails about how language is going down the toilet and with it all hope of ever being able to bring my real A-game to this cultural arena. 

But I’m so relaxed right now, slipping so comfortably back into the self killed in grade school by overappreciative teachers and glassy-eyed peers, that I was able to examine the issue with speculative delicacy.

Which is good, because Tim said it way better than I’d have done.

Read Tim Willard’s Ten Things I Think About “THIS {^}”

Timothy Willard is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.