On using unusual words

From an article dating back to 1986.
William F. Buckley on big words
He wrote this in response an editor's reasoning for his use of big words
I thought you use foreign words and phrases in your column because (1) you like to show off, and (2) you take delight in irritating people.

His reasoning is somewhat specious, but I have to hand it to him for a wonderful analogy. Augmented C 11th with a raised 9th.

But why should a syndicated columnist use the word? I can hear Mr. Williams re-asking. Well, not, really, just to show off - one doesn't ''show off'' one's workaday equipment. You see, that word, and a hundred or so others, are a part of my working vocabulary, even as a C augmented 11th chord with a raised 9th can be said to be an operative resource of the performing jazz pianist.

Are we now closing in on the question, by using the exclusivist word, ''performing?''

Yes, in a way we are, I suppose. Because just as the discriminating ear greets gladly the C augmented 11th when just the right harmonic moment has come for it, so the fastidious eye encounters happily the word that says exactly what the writer wished not only said but conveyed, the writer here defined as a performing writer sensitive to cadence, variety, marksmanship, accent, nuance and drama. WHAT of the reader who misses the refinement? Well, what of the listener deaf to the special reach of the C augmented 11th?

That reader has the usual choices: he can ignore the word; attempt, from the context, to divine its meaning precisely or roughly (not hard, in the narrative above, on Professor Weiss's liberal politics); or he can look it up. Are these alternatives an imposition? Yes, if the newspaper's feature that day is on how to treat a rattlesnake bite. You would not instruct the reader to fight the poison a outrance.

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