What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

04 November 2010

Wordsmith

There's a great debate, or so it seems, between the "just folks" people and the "swallowed a dictionary" people. If you've missed it, I would like to request that you let me know whether there are any houses for sale on your street, because it's really annoying me and I'd be happy to escape.

Not that I think this debate is anything new; I was already being mocked for being "book smart" (by adults in my own family, mind you) before I was out of middle school. Which is funny, really, because there's no other kind of smart to be in Greenfield, Indiana; suburbia does not offer a lot of opportunity for gaining street smarts. Especially not tiny-town suburbia.


But, I digress. Again. With the politicians jumping in on either side, as they do, the debate has been nationalized and thrust into the spotlight. On the one side, we have those who wish to relate well to their constituents who had fewer opportunities for education and are sick of all our national leaders coming out of just a handful of colleges; on the other side, the ones who act like everyone else should pull out a dictionary just to understand their campaign speeches. (Yes, those are totalizing claims. No, I don't know for sure what they are thinking. Yes, I'm making assertions based on how they act.) As with pretty much everything else in life, there is right and wrong on both sides.

It annoys me that they all score points with their followers by jabbing the other side. ("You're elitist." "Yeah? You're dumb!") And it annoys me even more that the followers fall for it. Every time! Like we don't have, you know, actual problems to be solved, and the best we can do with our public debate is call each other names? Small wonder we can never get anything done.

But it's troubling to me on a deeper level. Is there really no way to bring together the educated and the not-so? In my own experience, I've had limited success. Of course, I still consider myself to be in the middle of the two sides; my instructors use words on a daily basis that I have to look up, but I also have to bring my vocabulary down a few grade levels to talk to my parents. (I don't think I really do; I'm pretty sure they are capable of using long words, too, but they act like they can't understand me. So I play along.) Which is why I say I've met with limited success. It's almost like speaking two different languages, and neither of them fluently.

There has to be a better way. How do we stop the madness?

6 comments:

Megan K. Bickel said...

Good question, Su. I think the "swallowed a dictionary" people need to be aware that vocab is not necessarily a sign of intelligence and the "others" need to not feel threatened by words. The use of language to make other people feel inferior is shameful. But the denial of the beauty and depth of language is also sad.

Su said...

I agree. Sometimes I feel guilty for being educated, when I know that a lot of my family don't have the same opportunity (although they wouldn't want me to forgo learning on their account). And then I think about how limited education really is throughout the world, and it makes me sad.

And, even sadder, American kids go to our schools on a daily basis and the kids who are smart get picked on. Grrr. I want us (as a nation) to find out a way to fix this! If I knew how, I'd run for office!

sparquay said...

Interesting post. I guess I desire to have a greater vocabulary, because it sure comes in handy when reading some books, but also to be able to present the material in a way that those 'from the street' can understand.

Su said...

I certainly think it's possible to know things without being a jerk about it. Unfortunately, I haven't yet learned how this is done.

L'Aussie said...

True, this happens. It is expected that each generation gets better educated, so maybe most of us are better educated than our parents - i know I am - I was the first to go to uni in our family and I do try to hide any 'intellectualism' from them. I certainly hardly ever talk about my writing, or it might be considered showing off.

Politicians in any country usually come from the elite. Those who don't get run outta town pretty quickly, at least in Oz.

Good post..:)

Su said...

Thanks! I don't intend to make this blog political, of course, but I guess what annoys me is that all of our politicians are elite, but some don't act the act, and that's what alternately endears them so some and really annoys others. For instance, former Pres. Bush isn't dumb-- he just doesn't use polished speech, and so people mock him for it. But then you get Pres. Obama who uses beautiful English, and other people mock him for talking over their heads.

I just think there are better things for our policy-makers (and voters!) to argue about. Pity none of them are reading my blog. ;)

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