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Thread: Mercurial: tell me what it means

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    Dark Lord of the Sith maul52's Avatar
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    Mercurial: tell me what it means

    OK, a lot has been said about the use of the word "mercurial" in a recent episode of Survivor and judgments have been made based on a certain player's understanding, or lack thereof, of the word. I'd like anyone who has made such criticisms to explain to me what the word means and why it was appropriate to use it in the context it was used.

  2. #2
    Dark Lord of the Sith maul52's Avatar
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    Re: Mercurial: tell me what it means

    or inappropriate to use it..I'm not trying to make this a serious discussion of grammar, just what did everyone think when it was said?

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    8/2/64 until forever! AZChristian's Avatar
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    Re: Mercurial: tell me what it means

    To me, when I hear "mercurial," I think of the mercury in a thermometer . . . up and down.
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    FORT Fogey Lil Bit's Avatar
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    Re: Mercurial: tell me what it means

    Me too AZChristian. Changeable. (but I have to admit that I don't remember the context that the word was used in during the show, so I can't really comment on that part)
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    Red Sox Nation Brooks's Avatar
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    Re: Mercurial: tell me what it means

    Volatile.

    Tarzan used it at TC but I don't recall the context either. However, given that Tarzan used it descriptively, it might not have applied to the situation or person at all. ;^)
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    Teach your children Uncle David's Avatar
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    Re: Mercurial: tell me what it means

    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.
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    8/2/64 until forever! AZChristian's Avatar
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    Re: Mercurial: tell me what it means

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

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    PWS
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    Re: Mercurial: tell me what it means

    You usually see the word applied to people, rather than situations or things....applying it to Tarzan would be a very appropriate usage, at least as he's edited.

    I must have looked away and missed Kat's response. The only funny look I saw on her face was when Jonas outed Tarzan as wanting to evict her, and she was all, what did I do to you?

    And Uncle David, I'm with you, unless the big word user is 1) doing it to be pretentious or 2) uses the word in the way you would if you only had read the definition but never seen or heard it used--aka, knows it from an SAT flash card, in which latter case I just feel sorry for her/him.

    Sadly a lot people think that anyone who uses a word they don't understand is being pretentious...when in fact it may be in normal use in his/her home.

    However, if you are trying to communicate it's a good idea to have some idea where your audience is coming from---so when I teach I may use a "big" word, but then I immediately paraphrase---I figure that way I don't lose anyone in the audience, and anyone who didn't know what it meant will have learned a new word, and how it should be used.

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    Teach your children Uncle David's Avatar
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    Re: Mercurial: tell me what it means

    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.
    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.

    Tarzan showed exactly how the use of a word can be both appropriate and economical. At Tribal Council mercurial was the perfect word to describe the situation. First Jonas suggests that Mike would be the best choice to go. Then Tarzan targets Jonas. Jonas then brings up the plan to vote off Kat. Tarzan again tells Jeff and the group that they should vote out Jonas. Then Chelsea tries to throw Tarzan under the bus, and Sabrina jumps onboard. All of this took place in a matter of minutes. THAT is the very definition of mercurial. Not a 'big' word, just the right word.
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    Teach your children Uncle David's Avatar
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    Re: Mercurial: tell me what it means

    Quote Originally Posted by PWS View Post
    However, if you are trying to communicate it's a good idea to have some idea where your audience is coming from---so when I teach I may use a "big" word, but then I immediately paraphrase---I figure that way I don't lose anyone in the audience, and anyone who didn't know what it meant will have learned a new word, and how it should be used.
    Which, in fact, is exactly what Tarzan did...

    Tarzan: "...So that makes the whole thing totally mercurial at this point."

    and then...

    "Not knowing which way or how it's going to go."
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