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Obnoxious Vocabulary

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by McNuggetsMan, Mar 7, 2011.

  1. McNuggetsMan

    McNuggetsMan Member

    In a column about Pitt basketball, Post-Gazette columnist Gene Collier wrote the following:

    Pitt's skittish free-throw shooting and recent habit of putting together somnambulant first halves have its rooters wondering if one problem or the other will eventually derail a promising March.

    Is it me or is "somnambulant" an obnoxious word to use in a college basketball story? I don't think that every word in every newspaper story has to be on a third-grade reading level or we have to assume that all readers are idiots, but that word just seems unnecessary. I consider myself to have an above average vocabulary and I had no idea what that word means. How does a word like that end up in a sports story? This strikes me as a columnist just trying to show off his vocabulary and use big words rather than actually inform readers. In fact, I think the setence became more awkward by trying to jam somnambulant into the sentence rather than using a simpler word. Isn't "Pitt's skittish free-throw shooting and recent habit sleep walking through first halves have its rooters wondering if one problem or the other will eventually derail a promising March." a much simpler sentence?

    So how do you decide what words are good for a story and which words will sail over readers heads unnecessarily?
  2. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Doesn't bother me. It's a great word and, to me, doesn't seem like he forced it in given the sentence's construction.

    Or of course he also might have a running gag with someone to get a big word in stories.
  3. Rhody31

    Rhody31 Well-Known Member

    It is obnoxious. If you think your readers will have to use a dictionary, don't do it.
    We have a prep guy who tried to do this every week. I made him stop after he used "shambolic."
  4. TheSportsPredictor

    TheSportsPredictor Well-Known Member

    Gene Collier is far above me and most others on this site, but it would have been much better just to write "sleepwalk through first halves." But then that would be a cliche.
  5. EagleMorph

    EagleMorph Member

    I'm all for Collier using somnambulant (which, by the way, spell check doesn't even recognize here) and using it well.

    God forbid someone has to look up a new word and learn something instead of being fed the mindless drivel that takes up the majority of our reading material anymore.
  6. DisembodiedOwlHead

    DisembodiedOwlHead Active Member

    Relying on adjectives and adverbs makes for weak media writing any time. Save your thesaurus for strong nouns and verbs.
  7. MartinonMTV2

    MartinonMTV2 New Member

    Full disagree. Adverbs and adjectives, used efficiently, are great things to have. But the Poynter somnambulists have filled people's heads with fear about them.
  8. Flying Headbutt

    Flying Headbutt Moderator Staff Member

    That same word appeared in a Washington Post sports story last week. I had the same reaction as you. There was no point to having that particular word in there other than to show off. There are several other words that could be used instead to convey the same meaning, but also without dumbing it down.
  9. Smasher_Sloan

    Smasher_Sloan Active Member

    I'm more concerned with the misuse of the word "obnoxious" in this discussion.
  10. outofplace

    outofplace Well-Known Member

    Exactly. I wouldn't do it, but I have no problem with Collier doing it. Collier isn't afraid to push his readers a bit with his use of language. Having read his stuff for many years, this didn't seem at all out of place.
  11. McNuggetsMan

    McNuggetsMan Member

    Why should someone have to use a dictionary to read a sports story? There is a huge gap between mindless drivel and somnambulant. The sports page isn't a vocabulary test. It's entertainment.

    People open it up to learn more about their teams, which they follow for entertainment. Push them to learn more about how the games were played, about social conditions that have an impact on sports, about health, financial and other issues that related to sports. As you pointed out, spell check on this site doesn't even recognize this word, which would seem to make it awfully obscure.
  12. Azrael

    Azrael Active Member


    Also, at this late date in the death spiral of newspapers, why insist on writing down to the reading level of people who do not read?
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