June 3rd, 2017

Editorial: Shibboleth. Casuistry. Recondite.

Just look at those words! Aren't they wonderful? And as readers who consume a wide variety of literature, we recognize them, don't we? Of course we do!

A more difficult question is "Do we know exactly what they mean?" For my part, I'm not ashamed to say "not exactly, no."

These sorts of words are what author Seth Stevenson calls "bubble vocabulary." In his 2014 Slate article Shibboleth. Casuistry. Recondite., he takes a look at these words at the very edges of our vocabularies and suggests some strategies for attempting to employ them.

(Wrestling with bubbles … )