Friday, February 14, 2014

Muscular, crepuscular

“Is the literary world elitist?” asks the headline on a provocative piece by Laura Miller, a senior writer for Salon.

Miller takes as her text an essay in Metro by Eleanor Catton, a New Zealand novelist and the winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize for her second novel, The Luminaries.

Catton, in her turn, was reacting to a comment on Twitter complaining that the use of the word “crepuscular,” relating to twilight, is self-indulgent and elitist.

Because what is Twitter for, if not to complain about self-indulgence?

My colleague K.I. Press, author of three books of poetry with another one in progress, shared these essays with Creative Communications instructors this week after we indulged in another of those discussions about what language skills we should expect from post-secondary students.

I would love to see a student use “crepuscular” properly in an assignment in journalism, my area.

Vigorous, specific language works well in journalism – even if it sends a reader to a dictionary. Especially if it sends a reader to a dictionary.

The person who dies with the largest vocabulary wins.