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Word for the Wise September 27, 2006 Broadcast Topic: Sesquipedalian

We talked recently about a listener抯 quest for the term for a person who uses large words when smaller ones would do. We couldn抰 come up with precisely the right word for our searcher, but we did pass along a number of synonyms for inflated speech, including bombast, fustian, and the now-archaic lexiphanic, an adjective meaning "using ostentatiously recondite words". (来源:英语学习门户网站EnglishCN.com)

That program elicited plenty of feedback from word lovers with suggestions of their own. Pedant was popular, and one correspondent offered euphuist—someone who favors high-flown diction and artificial and excessively elegant language. Euphuist comes from Euphues, the title character in two works by English author John Lyly.

But by far the most popular suggestion was sesquipedalian (or a variant on it.) Our favorite variant, by the way, is sesquipedantilism. Sesquipedantalism is hardly well-established, but we do appreciate the blend of pedant with sesquipedalian.

So what does sesquipedalian mean? In Latin, it means "a foot and a half long"; in English, it denotes "given to or characterized by the use of long words". Sesquipedalian entered English in the 1600s but owes its existence to Horace, the Roman writer who also observed "Often a purple patch or two is tacked onto a serious work of high promise to give an effect of color."

 
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