Classic Example of Over-Inflated Language

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever and Weather Whys: Facts, Myths, and Oddities.

Over-inflated and convoluted language does not make a person sound more intelligent, but it does make a person seem as if:

  • he’s trying too hard to sound smart
  • how he sounds is more important than what he says
  • he’s trying to deliberately confuse the listener (or reader)
  • he has a really big thesaurus and no real hobbies

None of those would fall into the category of effective communication, which is best represented by a direct, simple expression of thoughts.

Don’t Sound Like This Person!

On a recent Jon Stewart episode, Stewart showed a clip (he did not conduct the interview himself) of Beverly Ginn (an Arizona attorney) saying the following in reference to the controversial Arizona immigration law:

“Reasonable suspicion exists when an officer is aware of specific, articulable facts which, when considered with the objective and reasonable inferences, forms the basis for particularized suspicion.”

By the way, reasonable suspicion apparently includes speeding in a car based on an interview later in the show, but would you have known that from this quote?

Why the Big Words?

I’m no psychic, so there’s no way for me to know why Ginn chose to use that particular language; however, I got the distinct impression–perhaps from the fact that she couldn’t seem to say the line with a straight face–that she was clearly trying to add confusion rather than add clarity.

She didn’t want it to be obvious to her audience what would actually determine when a suspected illegal alien could be asked for identification based on the current law, so she spit out a bunch of inflated words that gave no real information.

Don’t be like that.

Speak Plainly

Stewart summed up her quote by saying, “Mexicans are ****ed.”

Now, that was short and direct…and I knew what he meant.

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