Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Verbosity, Thy Name Is...

I'll confess; I'm verbose. Yup, as I've said in an earlier post, I'm a believer in the concept of "Why use one word when a whole phrase will do?". This has gotten me in trouble over the years, mostly with my wife, who for years has tried to shorten my style of story-telling in family gatherings; apparently I was making everyone glassy-eyed with details that no one really wanted to know. She'd start stomping my feet after a few minutes and I began to realize that my career as a raconteur (that's "Story Teller" to you non-French speakers out there) was going to be rather limited unless I did some editing real fast.

The worst of it came when I was talking about my father at his very informal funeral a few years back. I made some notes and talked about him for a while; after we were done, my sister-in-law came up to me and said, "Man, you really are verbose, aren't you?". At first I took a little offense at that, since I figured, hey, if you can't be verbose at a family member's funeral, when can you be? But I soon began to realize that verbosity does have its advantages.

In my line of work, the legal profession, verbosity is almost a given. Judges can be incredibly verbose, particularly in giving their opinions (and trust me, Judges ALWAYS have opinions, whether you ask for them or not) and in what other profession can you find written opinions poured over by generations of lawyers and lawyer-wannabe's looking for the meaning in each and every word? Lawyers have discovered that, by being intentionally verbose, weak arguments and outright lies have been covered over like bad mashed potatoes with gravy so that no one really notices.

When you are verbose, lots of little facts can be lost in the forest of details. This can be a good thing when the facts aren't real helpful to your personal cause. It's probably not a bad idea to submerge the fender-bender you had earlier in the day in the midst of a rehashing of your work day as you talk to your spouse. Being succinct with damaging facts can be a bit traumatic, particularly when you aren't really very good at confrontations.

I've learned to recognize the effects my verbosity has on others, the rolling of the eyes or downright glassiness in expression, the quick shifting of topics to keep me from meandering about and the occasional feigning of death. I've started going to VA (Verbosity Anonymous) meetings, but I'm not really sure how effective it'll be; the first person to introduce himself usually ends up speaking all night.

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