Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt
Wherefore upon we find ourselves on the noble precipice of the dawning of a newly formed sentence and, seeing as how I still have your undivided attention even though I find myself in recognition of the fact that I’m competing with the likes of social media and videos involving funny cats, I thank you for your examination of my grandiloquent commentary. In other words, it’s time to talk about grandiloquence.
Have you ever read a formal proclamation? Suppose the guy who has worked on trees for the city’s parks department retires after 25 years of service and the mayor wants to honor him for his service. Someone plants a puny-looking tree in a park, and they dedicate it to the outgoing arborist.
But that’s not all.
The mayor inevitably shows up with a formal proclamation. The flowery language is bound by a leather-clad piece of overblown cardboard bordered by some gold filagree on the certificate-worthy taupe-colored paper. The mayor declares that June 3 will hereby be known in the city as “Rick Philby Jr. Day.”
Of course, the mayor’s office really went for it with the language for Rick’s proclamation. In fact, the words were so highfalutin and redundant that — not only was the tribute a perplexing way to say “attaboy,” but it ended up being longer than a CVS receipt.
Yes, grandiloquence is a style of speaking or writing that includes large words but little meaning. Politicians excel at it to the point where I think the first thing they teach you in first-time politician classes is how to bloviate for an hour without ever saying anything of substance. Grandiloquence is formal but shallow. This type of speech is all sizzle and no steak.
The identical twin of grandiloquence is “bombast.” Bombastic speech is fancy, puffed-up nonsense language disguised as importance. Poor ol’ Rick from the parks department probably would have preferred a nice watch or a modest Amazon gift card.
In the 16th century, the term “bombast” emerged by way of Old French and Latin before it. It means “cotton padding,” or — quite literally — “fluff.” We get the term “grandiloquence” from the Latin word “grandiloquentia,” meaning “lofty speech or language.”
As you might expect, I don’t recommend using bombastic or grandiloquent speech in your own communication. As Shakespeare wrote in “Hamlet,” “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Use your words thoughtfully to communicate what you want to communicate, and then be done.