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Sesquipedalianism

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Sesquipedalianism

Sesquipedalianism is a linguistic style that involves the use of long words.

Origins of the term

Horace coined the phrase sesquipedalia verba in his Ars Poetica.[1][2] It is an agglutinative exocentric compound of sesqui and pes, meaning 'one and a half feet long', with reference both to size and hypermetry. The earliest recorded usage in English of 'sesquipedalian' is in 1656, and of 'sesquipedalianism', 1863.[3]

Motivations

The sesquipedalian may be seeking (1) lexical precision; (2) to demonstrate the benefits of erudition; (3) to stifle intellectual challenge.[4]

Criticisms

The efficacy of sesquipedalianism has been questioned since the origins of the term: Horace reminds the reader that 'gigantic expressions', along with rants, are set aside by characters 'if they have a mind to move the heart of the spectator with their complaint'.[2] More recently it has been alleged that it is a form of obscurantism that seeks 'by using logomachinations to divert discussion to the establishment of the opponent's comprehension of the vocabulary'.[4]

See also

References

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