Thursday, June 05, 2003


Over Memorial Day Weekend, the wife and I packed up the dog and all her amenities (I note the dog's amenities, because they are indeed noteworthy) and headed North.

It was time for the annual Heathcote Hiatus at my wife's parents' five-acre plot in the beautiful hamlet of Nipomo, just south of Pismo Beach. Understanding the significance of traveling via motor car on a holiday weekend (especially when L.A. stands before you and your destination), we made sure we were prepared for a 4.5 hour trip that could easily turn into 6 of 7. Part of that preparation was securing some books on tape* from the local library.

One of the selections was The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse. It was a random selection based on compelling marketing copy found on the cover of a 10 audiocassette collection. The carefully crafted words clearly indicated that I had satisfied my search for a light-hearted comedy. Please forgive my ignorance, as I will you if you're also not familiar, but I had no idea that Wodehouse was an extremely famous British author who first penned the character "Jeeves" - whose renown forever pinned that name to the butler profession.

However, the point of this post is not to discuss Wodehouse, but rather the style of speech that his novel characters' employ. For me, a good portion of the comedy comes from the formality, exaggeration and elevated vocabulary inherent in each conversation. I was constantly delighted by the sound of such rarely used words as ensconce, miscreant and skullduggery. Perhaps it's because I'm a writer by profession, but I just love the clever use of words. As I continued to listen, I began to wonder why most Americans seem to use such a limited vocabulary. I've chalked it up to laziness over ignorance, but I leave it up for discussion.

Soon, I began to become inspired to use more colorful language in my own everyday speech. However, as I thought about it more, I feared that people would consider me very odd, pompous or gay. The former and latter I could deal with - as it certainly wouldn't be the first time - but I don't want to come across as pompous. So, for the meantime, I am going to seek out more Wodehouse novels (he's an author of nearly 100) for my private amusement and perhaps slowly edge myself further into the deep end of the vocabulary pool.

*The subject of cassette tapes will be explored in a future post.

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