The Toad's Words

Excursus #9

To help prevent barbarisms among my family, friends, and colleagues I hereby present The Ninth Installment of The Toad's Words. Over the last few weeks several people have sent me new words. I thank you. My notebook is now brimming.

Leave it to a 15-year-old to find an error that everyone else missed (or at least did not want to embarrass me by pointing it out). In Toad #8 (the original version) I spelled 'bowdlerize' wrong. I interchanged the 'd' and 'l.' My daughter, Ann, caught it. She said she learned it in sophomore English as a vocabulary word. (Thank you, Ms Kent!) That brings us to our first word.

Sophomoric, adjective

Conceited and pretentious, yet crude and ignorant. It, of course, also means, as the dictionary would say, of, or relating to, sophomores.

The word relates back to the word 'sophism,' which means a clever, but misleading, argument. The Sophists were professional teachers in ancient Greece who developed a bad reputation. However, sophos comes from the Greek word for 'wise.'

The president of the Citizen Committee's sophomoric tirade before the school board convinced all the members to vote against whatever it was that he favored.

Sagacity, noun

Clear, sound in judgement; shrewdness.

Sagacity usually comes from knowledge that is a result of broad experience and the thoughtful evaluation of that experience. From the Latin sagire, meaning to discern acutely.

The experienced teacher's sagacity in dealing with sophomoric students was admired by teachers and parents alike.

Sciolism, noun

Pronounced sy-uh-lism, accent on sy.

Superficial knowledge. A pretentious attitude of scholarliness. Can be used as sciolist meaning an intellectual fake. From the Latin sciolus meaning smatterer, or one who knows very little.

The lecturer's sciolism, coupled with his sophomoric presentation, offended most of the audience.

Solecism, noun

A blunder in the manner of speaking or writing.

This usually refers to the misuse of grammar or sentence construction, as opposed to the misuse of words which is sometimes referred to as 'barbarism.' The word comes from the Greek word soloikizein meaning to speak incorrectly. That word comes from the substandard Attic dialect spoken among the Athenian colonists of Soloi in Cilicia. I guess an American version of this would be 'newyorkism.'

The anchorman's consistent solecisms eventually got him moved to sports correspondent where his mistakes would not be noticed.

Solipsism, noun

This word originally referred to a philosophical context in the disbelief in the existence of anything beyond the self. Hence, a solipsist (a person who believes in solipsism) is a philosopher who believes that only he himself exists, and that everything else exists only through his own conception of it. Having said that, the common usage now is a pejorative one referring to anyone completely wrapped up in their own private world. Good examples of solipsists are the people that stop at the top of escalators, the people on the subways carrying boom boxes turned all the way up, and the women who walk three abreast down a narrow sidewalk.

The company president's solipsistic views, his sophomoric management techniques, and his sciolistic knowledge of human behavior, eventually caused all of the capable employees to leave.

Disclaimer: The author, his peers, friends, and colleagues in no way take responsibility for crossed-eyed glances, slapped faces, rejected offers, or any draconian consequences as a result of using The Toad's Words.

Revised: August 27, 2000

Copyright by Michael L. VanBlaricum, 04 September 2000.

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