If there's anyone on Planet Earth who understands the power of words, it's got to be Bob Bly. He's made himself very comfortable and extremely well respected as a freelance writer and prolific author.
His 76th book, The Words You Should Know To Sound Smart, is a winking nod to all the books and self-study programs that promise to teach people sophisticated terminology so they can raise their ranking on the social totem pole and be hired for more important jobs.
This book is funny, and it's also cool.
Personally, I found it has words that I know and use (elucidate, litany, fruition)... words that I know but would never use (couture, circumlocution, commodious)... words that I've heard or read but don't know what they mean (meretricious, pusillanimous, rationate)... and words I've simply never come across before (raiment, flagitious, hygroscopic).
If you love words -- as I do -- this is a fun book to have.
But if you are looking to improve your standing and credibility in the world, don't take the tongue-in-cheek promise of the title seriously. I know people professionally and socially who are insecure about their intelligence or lack of formal education, and they make pathetic fools of themselves by using big words they don't really understand as an effort to cover up those insecurities.
It's not pretty.
One more thing. Bob Bly is a tremendously successful and skilled copywriter. His 1985 book The Copywriter's Handbook is one of the best works ever written on the subject, for beginners and advanced copywriters alike.
Now understand that the 1200 words featured in his latest book are great words to play with, but not so good for selling. Here's the simplest way to see that:
The title, "The Words You Should Know To Sound Smart," contains eight words, all one syllable. The average number of letters per word is a hair over four. None of these words is one of those 1200 that are recommended between the covers.
Many of the words in this book are much, much longer than any of the eight words that make up the title of this book.
It's a great title. None of the title words makes you "sound smart." But they will sell a lot of books.
And maybe in that little paradox is the answer to the question that, over the years, has painted so many people into a corner: "If you're so smart, how come you're not rich?"
Well... maybe all those "dumb guys" who make up the top 2% of the wealth holders of the world... just maybe, they aren't so dumb after all?
Publisher, World Copywriting Newsletter