The ancient Roman satirist, Horace, said it first.
He cautioned young poets against using ‘sesquipedalia verba’ or “words a foot and a half long“.
The word sesquipedalian is now used by people who like to use long words to describe people or writing that, well, uses long words.
In my experience, we tend to default to long words when we feel we have a point to prove.
When we want to be seen as intelligent.
As an expert.
When, perhaps, we’re feeling a bit insecure about our status or our expertise.
But the brilliantly titled 2006 study ‘Consequences of erudite vernacular utilized irrespective of necessity: Problems with using long words needlessly’ showed this:
…people think we’re less intelligent, not more, when we use long words.
So if you ever feel ‘less than’ and need to make a positive impact…
(whether it’s with an email, presentation, proposal or letter of complaint to your upstairs neighbour who wears clickety-clackety stilettos on her hardwood floors)
…choose shorter, simpler words. Ones that clearly explain your message and don’t get lost in wordy frippery.
We’ll all think you’re brilliant if you do.
But tell me, are you a secret sesquipedalian?