Big Pretentious Words are Big and Pretentious

pretentious humor

Confession: I sometimes like to appear smarter than I really am. Rather than using colloquial language, I’ll toss in some three, four, and five syllable words to dazzle. I kinda just did it with the word ‘colloquial.’ Guilty.

Have you ever used “big words” just to impress someone?

Words like these…

  • Pretentious. Even using the word ‘pretentious’ is, in itself, pretentious.
  • Colloquial. See above. I used it a few sentences ago to make myself appear shiningly brilliant.
  • Nebulous. I’ll toss this one into a sentence when describing concepts and ideas that aren’t specific. As in: “I like the direction of this project Fran, it’s just a bit nebulous at present.” Just saying the word ‘nebulous’ raises my IQ. I’m sure of it.
  • Any Medical Terminology Picked Up from WebMD. As in “yeah, it was a post-roital laceration on my dorsal vertex.” Of course, peons who haven’t read WebMD feel their intelligence quotent drop with each and every syllable of our verbiage.
  • Verbiage. It’s pretentious to use the word ‘verbiage.’
  • Moot. Like a judge on Law and Order, we’ll refute irreveant information and use the word moot. Check this out from the dictionary: “it is moot whether this phrase should be treated as metaphor or not.” That sentence doesn’t even seem like English.
  • Ambidextrous. I get a one-two punch out of this one by both saying the word and demonstrating as well. For some odd reason, I have no trouble shooting pool with either hand. Though I’ll probably not win the game, my opponent is astonished with my vocabulary and my ambidextrousness. Makes me feel better about myself… just like listening to James Taylor.

How are we going to keep it light today?  Suggestion box below… just leave your tips in the comments.


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Author: Andrew Zahn

I'm a son, husband, dad, business owner, actor and good sleeper/eater. On this blog, I pave a highway for creative growth by providing food, water, and shelter for those wishing to live, work, and play with creative zest.

  • I can’t think of one right off, but I think we all have our favorite pretentious word.

  • Oh, man…Verbiage. There is no pretentious word strong enough to express my hate for that word. A former boss of mine used to use it all. the. time. 15 years later, I still cringe when I see/hear it.

    • Andrew Zahn

      Ah yes. I can’t believe I missed that one! Argh, I’m guilty of that one from time to time too…

    • Ah yes. I can’t believe I missed that one! Argh, I’m guilty of that one from time to time too…

      • You didn’t miss it; you said it and triggered my flashbacks. My therapist thanks you for contributing to her kids’ college bills. 😉

        • I see it there! Forgot I wrote it!

          Another dime in the therapist’s coffer! That’s what I’m here for Christine!

  • A friend one told me he’d happily give his right arm to be ambidextrous…

    • Andrew Zahn

      Generous and terrifying.

    • Generous and terrifying.

  • I don’t like those kind of words. They feel often condescending when used in real life. But I don’t know if they are ALWAYS meant to come across that way. I do like the word copasetic, which my wife thinks is not really a word.

    • You used ‘condescending’ and ‘copacetic’! Two points!

      I do like copacetic…but am loathe to use it.

      Is ‘loathe’ one of those pretentious words?

  • C.V.

    A big pretentious word is any word YOU don’t know! Sure, some people use words as weapons, e.g. by battering listeners/readers with long or obscure words they hope will intimidate. But one glory of English is that it comprises more words than any other language, enabling us to convey nuances unknown to other verbal cultures; & that’s one glory of being a writer, booklover, or critical thinker.

  • LOVE this post. Especially because I just came out of a meeting with someone who said “The word ‘ready’ is nebulous.” Talk about timing.

    • I use that one when I don’t know what else to say.

      As in: “this meeting was quite nebulous, wasn’t it Fran?”

  • Papa Mike

    As a wordsmith, I am afraid I must cordially disagree, my dear Andrew, finding myself solidly in CV’s camp (see below); however, I do agree that words should never be wielded as weapons purposefully to point up another’s ignorance. That said, one of my pet peeves is with the erudite who insist upon dropping archaic Latin, Greek and French (I almost said “bon mots”) phrases into English conversation. In all fairness, unless we’ve established a multi-lingual conversation from the outset, I think the complexity of English is sufficient. ;^)

    • Fair enough. And while I agree with you and the equally astute C.V., to consider one’s audience is paramount. Though “paramount” boarders on pretension as well. 😉

      It could be argued that those being pretentious are often ignorant of their own condescension, being enamored of themselves and unknowingly inconsiderate of others.

      I want people to understand my message. Wether it’s a light-hearted post like this one or a more meaty post like this one:

      If my message is shrouded in words I just LOVE to use but my message is lost on them because they must decode everything I’ve sought to communicate, I’ve only served myself.

      • Meesha Kee Gah Boh



  • Teresa

    This is a great discussion as I am in need of good counsel. My editor says some of the language and phraseology (sorry – his word) I am using is too difficult for my ‘tween’ audience. I am desperate to elevate my reader…but not alienate my reader. What do we do in a world of txtg* short hand and words that don’t mean what they say? Do we acquiesce (sorry couldn’t help myself – its a GOOD word!) and allow the beauty of our language be reduced to grunts and symbols (ok I realize that’s extreme – but you get my point if you’ve ever had teenagers) or can we somehow save what’s been lost in our language and our culture without pretentiousness? Help.

    • That’s quite a discussion and is book-worthy. I’m sure there are multitudes of books written on the subject!

      Elevate but not alienate is a great mantra Teresa!

      I suppose it would depend on the type of writing you’re doing for the tweens. An occasional word that will contextually make sense would be acceptable in most any genre of writing, but an overabundance will turn them off and cause them to tune out.

      Perhaps that’s a good benchmark: can it make sense contextually.

      You’ve got me thinking!

      (so funny that what I thought was just a silly, satirical post has sparked a fun convo on here!)