May 26, 2016

Eloquence or logolepsy?

When a review of an opera CD in a respected non-specialist general magazine* uses words like uxorial and oneiric -

"...the apotheosis of chaste, uxorial devotion is set against a lush orgiastic orchestra..."

"The proper name for the resplendent, oneiric terrain where the kitsch-Kundry reigns is Tinseltown."

- what does this say about the author?  Personally I find such words irritating not because they are obscure but because their use strikes me as gratuitous.  Familiar English words wifely and dreamy (or dream-like) respectively would do perfectly well in the above quoted sentences.  But then my preference for linguistic clarity, transparency, and directness may have more to do with the fact that English is not my mother tongue than with some objective criteria of literary aesthetics. 

* Richard Taruskin, 'The Golden Age of Kitsch', The New Republic, 1994.  Reprinted in The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays, U. of California Press, 2008.


laybl said...

Don't blame yourself. Shakespeare, Shaw and Orwell are proof that English, with twice the vocabulary of any other modern language, need never be obscure nor affected. Art and music critics(or butchers) seem to have an unquenchable appetite for obscure word choices. Somehow, Orwell created countless masterpieces dealing with politics and philosophy but always with crystalline clarity.

Mulvya said...

The Bard obviously never met a person with lexical-gustatory synesthesia.

Shakespeare was referring to the smell of the rose, not that evoked by encountering its label, whether written or spoken.