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Thread: Mercurial: tell me what it means

  1. #11
    FORT Fox likeafox's Avatar
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    Re: Mercurial: tell me what it means

    I love that a man nicknamed Tarzan has a way with words. He has slowly become a favorite of mine this season, social ineptitude and all.

  2. #12
    FORT Fogey
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    Re: Mercurial: tell me what it means

    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle David View Post
    To me they're not 'big' words, they're just words. I don't roll my eyes if someone else uses a word of which I don't know the meaning. I take it in context or I ask for the definition. I have a dictionary, and I'm not afraid to use it.

    I agree, Uncle David. I have used the word "mercurial" for years..... and was tickled that someone else used it. But then, I love good words and interesting vocabulary. We always have a dictionary in the family room beside the couch for quick reference. (We also have an atlas ) .... You just never know when you need to look something up!
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  3. #13
    FORT Aficionado echo226's Avatar
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    Re: Mercurial: tell me what it means

    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle David View Post
    Tarzan: "Well, I came here wondering whether allegiances would be maintained, and I sense we've fallen apart. So that makes the whole thing totally mercurial at this point. Not knowing which way or how it's going to go."

    Yes, Tarzan's use of the word was appropriate.

    My problem isn't that Kat didn't know the meaning of the word. As we've seen on this forum it's not unusual for people to be unfamiliar with 'mercurial'. My problem was with her reaction. It appeared clear to me that she had disdain for his employment of a word we don't often hear in day to day conversation. My impression of Kat is that if you don't dumb down the conversation for her she considers you a ________. (fill in the blank) I find this type of reaction to an extensive vocabulary to be a sort of reverse elitism, and I'm not a fan.

    I welcome her to revel in her ignorance, but I take umbrage with anyone who finds it humorous when others try to better themselves with a more extensive vocabulary.
    I agree. It can mean various things ... erratic, changeable, volatile ... etc. but the use was appropriate ... especially from a doctor who is probably used to reading thermometers.


    Quote Originally Posted by AZChristian View Post
    Dear Kat: This means that Uncle David is going to keep on using big words, and you'll just have to get over yourself.
    Too funny !

    This thread is a fun read.

    One thing not mentioned is that words carry power. Simply using a word that Kat (and maybe others) might not understand or typically hear in this context could serve to break their concentration __ have them thinking about the word and not the game/strategy __ and cause them to falter.
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  4. #14
    Teach your children Uncle David's Avatar
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    Re: Mercurial: tell me what it means

    Quote Originally Posted by echo226 View Post
    One thing not mentioned is that words carry power. Simply using a word that Kat (and maybe others) might not understand or typically hear in this context could serve to break their concentration __ have them thinking about the word and not the game/strategy __ and cause them to falter.
    Agreed! Words can be disarming. "The pen is mightier than the sword!" That's why PWS's suggestion that you 'know your audience and paraphrase if necessary' is a good one.
    The funniest thing about this particular signature is that by the time you realise it doesn't say anything it's too late to stop reading it.

  5. #15
    Organizing my sock drawer RBmumsie's Avatar
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    Re: Mercurial: tell me what it means

    Well, my understanding of the word mercurial is: easily changed, and delicately poised for said change. In other words, a slight nudge would send the person or situation careening off in any direction.

    Now, I'm heading off to the dictionary and (drum roll, please!) Webster says: "characterized by rapid and unpredictable changeableness of mood".

    I'm not exactly sure why Tarzan trots out all of his "four dollar words" all the time, but I did express earlier that it may be a coping mechanism to deal with his aphasia. If he has a huge vocabulary, he would have a storehouse of alternative words to chose from when he has trouble remembering any particular term. Or, he could just be a pompous jerk....
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  6. #16
    Wild thang Rattus's Avatar
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    Re: Mercurial: tell me what it means

    Quote Originally Posted by RBmumsie View Post
    I'm not exactly sure why Tarzan trots out all of his "four dollar words" all the time, but I did express earlier that it may be a coping mechanism to deal with his aphasia. If he has a huge vocabulary, he would have a storehouse of alternative words to chose from when he has trouble remembering any particular term. Or, he could just be a pompous jerk....
    I wouldn't consider mercurial to be a "four dollar word" - I have always considered it to be one of the more prosaic words in my own personal arsenal. I admit that I have a reasonably extensive vocabulary, but I have always been comfortable using language I am familiar with and I have always felt that it would be far more condescending to speak down to my audience rather than assume that they are smart enough to either ask the meaning of any particular word I use, or look it up later. If anyone is offended by my refusal to assume that my audience isn't too bright, well, that is their problem, not mine.
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  7. #17
    8/2/64 until forever! AZChristian's Avatar
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    Re: Mercurial: tell me what it means

    I love to use words that actually say what I want to say in appropriate circumstances. I'm well read, and love to have my mind challenged. I don't get offended when folks use words I don't know . . . I love to look them up and learn to use them, too! For example, a couple of years ago at work, someone used the word, "ubiquitous" . . . although I knew the word existed, I'd never heard it used in a conversation before. I looked it up, learned the definition, and now use it where appropriate. It's such a cool word!


  8. #18
    FORT Fogey Longhornfan's Avatar
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    Re: Mercurial: tell me what it means

    This is going to show my age, but I grew up watching Password, Scrabble and the $25,000 Pyramid on television. So, I always love to see or hear a word that I am not sure if I know the meaning of, and I will then go and look it up. So, I am enjoying this discussion. I also immediately thought of the word mercury, so I knew that I was on the right track.
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  9. #19
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    Re: Mercurial: tell me what it means

    Having been a high school English teacher, a newspaper editor, and (God help me) a proofreader of American Heritage dictionaries, I just have to weigh in on this thread. I actually stumble sometimes in conversation because I'm looking for a one-syllable word when there's a perfectly appropriate polysyllabic word screaming to come out of my mouth. It's not so much that I want to dumb things down for the Kats of the world, I just fear that I will be seen as pretentious. When I do use the lesser known word, I then paraphrase as others have suggested, but then I'm afraid that will make the listener feel stupid as well, since I had to explain it.

    I think Tarzan's problem is his lack of social skills. He's highly educated and well read, but he doesn't play well with others . . . especially when the others are a bunch of idiots like this year's group. Compare him to the erudite Richard Hatch, who would have known exactly what mercurial meant -- but would have known not to use it.

    And now for those who have whetted your appetite for an extended vocabulary, I give you the most unusual word that I ran across in my years as a dictionary proofreader: callipygian. Look it up.
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  10. #20
    8/2/64 until forever! AZChristian's Avatar
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    Re: Mercurial: tell me what it means

    Looked it up. Nowhere near the definition I had assumed based on some of the parts of the word.

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