How do you keep from sounding pretentious?
April 1, 2019

“What constitutes a brick wall?” That’s a podcast title that didn’t make the cut. Jane and I decide on those together, and when I offered this one she said we couldn’t use “constitutes” because it’s three syllables.


“I steer my acting students away from three-syllable words,” she explained.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? It’s difficult (three syllables!) to eliminate (four syllables!) words with more than two syllables from your vocabulary. And why would you want to? I mean, this was crazy. Wasn’t it?

But like anything else that seems crazy at first, it burrowed into my brain like a miniature lawn mower. I’m a bit of a word snob. Should I add this guideline to my collection?

Hard to…say.

When I was booking guests on the talk show I eschewed people whose eMails sported too many “ize” words. “Utilize?” I’d want to ask. “Utilize? It’s use.”

I wasn’t in the market for conversations that sound like they were lifted out of an instruction manual for a lawn mower. I wanted people who talk like people talk.

Shorter words. Sweeter words. More emotion. Less pretention.