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Thread: Writers with Extraordinary vocabularies

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    Registered User hawthorns's Avatar
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    Writers with Extraordinary vocabularies

    Just wondered if there's a specific work or writer who had you reaching for the dictionary more than usual. Shakespeare for me, but I know there's others I have forgotten...

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    Registered User Darcy88's Avatar
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    McCarthy. Some of the words he uses aren't even in my dictionary.

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    Registered User the facade's Avatar
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    Anthony Burgess.
    That guy will get you to turn to a dictionary every sentence you read, have you cursing the day he was born as you're flicking through it, find the word and realize that it had been the most precise choice.
    This process is accelerated significantly with the advent of online dictionaries.
    He is amazing!

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    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    E.A.Poe.
    Try "The Imp of the Perverse."

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    TobeFrank Paulclem's Avatar
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    China Mieville - he uses interesting and obscure words, and also makes his own up to fit the situations.

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    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    Joyce would seem obvious.
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
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    Card-carrying Medievalist Lokasenna's Avatar
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    I think H. P. Lovecraft has to be up there - it's amazing how he can express the sentiment of 'he went completely bonkers' over and over in different forms.
    "I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity- through him all things fall. Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!" - Nietzsche

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    Registered User PoeticPassions's Avatar
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    Nabokov.
    "All gods are homemade, and it is we who pull their strings, and so, give them the power to pull ours." -Aldous Huxley

    "Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires." -William Blake

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    Registered User hawthorns's Avatar
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    BTW--

    I didn't title the thread very well. obviously there's little relationship between the words used and the writers actual vocabulary. I was just curious see what names would pop up.

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    My mind's in rags breathtest's Avatar
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    samuel beckett
    'For sale: baby shoes, never worn'. Hemingway

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    Voice of Chaos & Anarchy
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    Most writers have excellent vocabularies, but the really good ones target their readers in the vocabulary. They don't want readers to be amazed by the range of the vocabulary. They do ant readers to be comfortable with the verbiage.

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    TobeFrank Paulclem's Avatar
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    I read somewhere that they worked out that Shakespeare had a working vocabulary of 28,000 words on the evidence of his writing. Of course he probably had more words that he didn't use. I think the figue for a normal person was 13,000, but there are problems counting the extent of a person's vocabulary.

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    Registered User hawthorns's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeterL View Post
    Most writers have excellent vocabularies, but the really good ones target their readers in the vocabulary. They don't want readers to be amazed by the range of the vocabulary. They do ant readers to be comfortable with the verbiage.
    Agreed. Precision is more impressive than the words. That's one thing I liked about Flaubert.

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    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    I read somewhere that they worked out that Shakespeare had a working vocabulary of 28,000 words on the evidence of his writing. Of course he probably had more words that he didn't use. I think the figue for a normal person was 13,000, but there are problems counting the extent of a person's vocabulary.

    From what I have read on vocabulary, the average person has a working spoken vocabulary of 4,000-6,000 words, while a college professor might employ some 12,000-15,000 words. This refers solely to the spoken vocabulary. As we all know, writing is not the same as speaking and often employs more careful thought... choice of more exacting or specific words... and a conscious effort to avoid repetition of the same word.

    Estimations for word recognition among adults vary greatly from a low-end of 30,000 to a high of 150,000+ with 60,000 to 75,000 being accepted as an average for a college graduate.

    Shakespeare's vocabulary was undoubtedly quite a bit larger than 25,000+ words as this is the number of different words he employed in his plays and poems. This number includes a large number of words coined by the poet himself, and at least some 2,000 different names of flowers. Racine, by way of contrast, employed barely 2,000 different words in all of his plays and only used the terms "flower" and "rose". A large vocabulary may denote a degree of intelligence... but not always.

    Most writers have excellent vocabularies, but the really good ones target their readers in the vocabulary. They don't want readers to be amazed by the range of the vocabulary. They do (w)ant readers to be comfortable with the verbiage.

    I'm not certain to what degree writers "target" the comfort zone of their reader's vocabulary. Most writers, it would seem, write for an audience that they imagine as being not unlike themselves. I doubt that Shakespeare or Proust or Joyce or Henry James set out to impress their readers with their vocabulary pyrotechnics. They simply loved words and word-play. By the same token, Racine and Hemingway were not setting out to make themselves accessible to a dumbed-down audience. Rather, they sought something of a "classical" simplicity, clarity, and lack of ornament and undoubtedly imagined an audience that sought the same.

    As the audience, we have the advantage of being able to appreciate either approach.
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
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    Voice of Chaos & Anarchy
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    Quote Originally Posted by hawthorns View Post
    Agreed. Precision is more impressive than the words. That's one thing I liked about Flaubert.
    Yes, one word is worth a thousand picures, if one uses the right word.

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