Thursday, August 12, 2004

VRP Elucidated

A favorite, especially in adjective form.

I have this lingering fear that fascinating and clever words are disappearing from our vocabularies. Many of our speech patterns could be best summarized as like, um, whatever and our society seems to dumb everything down to the lowest common denominator. This process is exemplified by rap music, where every third word would appear like **** on this blog, and the main theme of every album is as follows:

I’m the man
Because I talk trash
And pull triggers
And get girls pregnant
I’m the man

The problem with simplistic, repetitive language is that it can only express one type of idea—you know, the simplistic, repetitive kind. Which is cool…if you’re operating a jack hammer or jogging…for the rest of the foreseeable future.

But more complex—and more valuable—ideas deserve more complex language. In fact, they require it. Example: It’s not possible to express the concept of “beauty” (even allowing for different interpretations) using only the words found in the lyrics of a 50 Cent album.

For us to live and die properly, things have to be named properly. Let us reclaim our words. - John Berger

So. Really engaging dialogue and writing must not be allowed to go the way of the dinosaur. And while others are doing their part (WORLD, Credenda Agenda, The Wall Street Journal, great authors…), this ought to be a grassroots effort as well. And to this end I am launching the Vocabulary Reclamation Project (VRP), a movement intent on getting the power of words back into the mouths of the people.

As founder and sole member of the VRP (so far), I will be searching for ways to subversively insert piquant and mesmeric words into my posts. (Ok, so that sentence was overkill.) But if you occasionally see a truly scintillating (or somewhat obscure) word on my blogs, marked by an asterisk, you can breath a sigh of relief, and, if necessary, check the definition. The VRP is on the job.

(Care to join the inner circle?)


Blogger Joe said...

Hi there.
I think this project of yours is quite original, as well as LONG overdue.
Since I moved to Canada from South Africa (6 years ago), I have noticed that my formerly vast vocabulary has been degrading, and that I am now writing or talking like a fool on my blogs.
How many participants in the project do you have so far?


12:13 PM  
Blogger Ariel said...

Hi there Joe
The VRP has 3-4 semi-official members so far... humble beginnings. :) Besides indulging my somewhat whimsical (stupid?) sense of humor, I hope this "project" will give me an excuse for using occasional "colorful" words, and cause people to think about their language... as you obviously do.

The requirements for membership are pretty lax: use a few fascinating words in your posts, and, if possible, provide a link back to this blog- (

I'll check out your blog and see you around.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Ariel said...

Oops, I was also going to say, here's an example of a post where the VRP made an appearance:
(There are several more, if you search BitterSweetLife - "vocabulary reclamation.") When I use suitably "useful" words, I try to link back to this page...

7:16 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Well, as you can see, I have not yet made a full fledged assualt on my verdant vocabulary-base. Thus far, actually, I'm only working on using words to add character and flare to my usually unimaginative sentences.

11:32 PM  
Blogger Ariel said...

ha ha, a good place to start

7:03 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

this is an incredible idea. A tool I frequently use is gurunet. A couple of years ago, I decided I was tired of not being able to fully express myself because of a sorely limited vocabulary. I started using gurunet, and everytime I came across a word I could not define, I could just alt+click it, and there is the definition. It's awesome.
I like what you're doing bro. I'd like to join you.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Ariel said...

Welcome aboard, Jeremy. The VRP is a loose affiliation at this point. :) Try and link back to this page now and then, if you're able; here's an example. I'll have to give gurunet a once over, it sounds like a great idea.

8:03 PM  
Blogger Ubermensch said...

i easily relate to what has be said,
even the words are disappearing into sounds and now those emoticons? we are such a degenrating race?

4:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting project, indeed. I've read too many freshman comp papers to disagree with the essential need for increased vocabulary.
I found your project from your other blog...the bittersweet, which is nicely done, by the way. Looking forward to discovering your book on the shelf...unless it's already out there?

2:33 PM  
Blogger Ariel said...

Nope, no published work yet (except on and a few literary mags). But I'm duly flattered and will continue in my quest for author-dom. :)

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even if I'm not official yet, I'll start doing this. Do you mind? Maybe I'll even post more than once every three weeks!

7:19 PM  
Blogger Katie said...

aj, there may be a fine line between expanding your vocabulary and being pretentious. tv sitcoms/dramas - pretentious using your thesaurus- expanding your vocabulary... i got to a point where i couldn't find the perfect word for what i was trying to so i would have to stop, take time to remember what it was i was trying to say, and then go back to finding the word i was looking for in the beginning. so i read, and read a lot in order to maintain a "intelligent" vocabulary, which is utilized maybe once a week, and the rest of the time me talk bad.

9:01 PM  
Blogger Ariel said...

blue highways, you bring up a valid point.

One of the greatest pitfalls for aspiring VRP grads is the use of their new verbal firepower. Seamless integration into everyday conversation is, of course, the goal. Unfortunately, this rarely happens without a kind of awkward learning period. (It's easier in writing.)

During this learning period, ugly (pretentious) things can happen if BIG WORDS replace functional conversation as the priority.

Some people try to ease the transition by "targeting" certain groups in which to test their new vocabularies. This can have its own painful side effects... All I can say is preceed with circumspection that could conceivably be considered extraneous in most other situations. ;)

7:33 PM  
Anonymous nick said...

I'm an 18 year old male senior in high school. I could go on for hours about this subject. Language is an art. It should be taught as so in schools. Reading this today has given me hope that this world is not doomed to a very low grade of intelligence in the futre. I don't always receive good grades in school, but i believe i can speak rather well and use my emotions in my words. Thank you for giving me this hope of a better future...

1:03 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

I'm guilty of vocabulary stupidity, so I have nothing intellectual to add to this conversation. I'll be following it though. Very interesting!

9:59 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Is this still active? I see the original post as written in 2004. I love the concept. I will keep watching with certainty.

5:22 AM  
Blogger Ariel said...

C'mon, no one who comments on the VRP can be guilty of vocab stupidity. The fact that you found this blog speaks volumes. :)

And yes, the VRP is still in action!

11:41 PM  
Blogger Alice said...

I am told I speak well, clearly and with intelligence. I actually speak normally. It is simply unfortunate that so many have relegated themselves to the mundane conversations commonly found in the melting pot of their local Starbucks.....

This is a magnanimous task - to say the least. But to all - please don't sacrifice the use of a "big word" for the lack of proper grammer and punctuation. It creates a literal oxymoron.

5:20 PM  
Blogger tamburlane said...

I used to post a 'word of the week' on my door at work. The net should be more effective at disseminating vocabulary - keep it up!

10:41 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home