Monday, March 10, 2014

Vocabulary: immature and superficial

Years ago, I decided that if I was going to learn foreign language vocabulary, I should also put some effort into learning more English vocabulary.  Therefore, I started writing down words that I didn't know when reading.  The first book for which I did this, "Empire of the Inca" by Burr Cartwright Brundage, provided a good start -- I got a good 20 words out of that book.  (It was as difficult to read as the vocabulary was obscure.)

After I had accumulated more words, I started noticing that they fell into categories, which I suppose is inevitable.  I present to you, therefore, some vocabulary words describing immature and superficial people:

"Callow" and "sophomoric" both mean "immature."  "Jejune" means childish or unsatisfying.  It is the key word in a great exchange between Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in "Love and Death":
- That is incredibly jejune.
- That's jejune? 
- Jejune! 
- You have the temerity to say that I'm talking to you out of jejunosity?
I am one of the most june people in all of the Russias.

"Sciolism" means superficial knowledge (from Latin "scius," "knowing").  A "philosophaster" is a person with superficial knowledge or who feigns more knowledge than he has.  A "pieriansipist" is a superficial learner, one who has sipped from the Pierian spring (sacred to the Greek muses) but not drunk deeply enough for real understanding.  That is a $3 word for superficial if I ever heard one.  But my favourite word in this category is "deipnosophist," meaning someone skilled at dinner table conversation.  Deipnosophist does not imply shallow or superficial, but it always makes me think of the type of person who spins out theories that sound plausible to most of his audience, but which are actually nonsense to the sort of people who would actually know something about the subject.

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