Sometimes I get the impression that atheists hide behind a facade of intellectualism, by choosing longer than necessary words and/or sentences. For example we have "discussions" (three syllables) where MySpace has "threads" (one syllable).

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I think it is true in some cases and is generally founded in egotism. Moreover, by and large I think it is exercised as a means of intimidating others into agreeing with the presenter by suggesting that those who do not agree with him or her are simply not as intelligent.
Have you ever heard Don King, the boxing promoter? He's a perfect example of someone who verbosely peppers his speech with "big words" that he's acquired audibly here and there. But he isn't using the words correctly, he's just pretentiously mimicking the sounds he's heard before like an adult child---albeit with some loose, contextual connection to their actual meanings. I can always tell when someone has relied mostly on audibility for their language development rather than by reading and writing as well. They misuse and mispronounce words all the time. I find that Sarah Palin does this frequently---she is the queen of 'malaprops'. 

One other idea I wanted to share is that some areas of modern thought like sciences, for example, acquire their own specialized vocabulary. This is true for lawyers, doctors, astronauts, plumbers and English teachers. So I'm always prepared to be baffled by jargon...but, in spite of that, I can usually tell 'bullsh*t' from a real try at communicating... although I think this is different from what Ruth is aiming at...
Exactly. I was thinking as I was reading your comment...'Both pronunciations are accepted... like so many other English words.' English is a living language, quite dynamic and flexible...not given to prudishness...mercifully. Otherwise, Miss Cavanaugh, my high school English teacher, would surely be plaguing my dreams!
I never thought of it that way, but yes, English has been wonderfully promiscuous in adopting new words, and words from other languages. Have you ever noticed that in translation dictionaries - English/Spanish, English/Italian, especially English/French - the English section is twice as big as the other. France has a cultural purity policy that formally decides which words to allow into the French language. Chauvinisme was already there:-) We, on the other hand, have linguists who gather all the newly popular words, define them, and add them to new dictionaries.
Good Yankee imagery. Ben Franklin would approve!

The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that the English language is as pure as a crib-house whore. It not only borrows words from other languages; it has on occasion chased other languages down dark alley-ways, clubbed them unconscious and rifled their pockets for new vocabulary.

—James Nicoll, can.general, March 21, 1992

Often paraphrased as "English doesn't borrow from other languages.... goes through their pockets for loose grammar." We keep our own grammar, but our vocabulary might well evolve into a superset of other languages'!

 

... my vocabulary was developed through reading and writing...

I'm sure I'm not alone in being "eye-literate" with a few words I've encountered in writing but not conversation.

I have been troubled by this topic since the day I joined Atheist Nexus!  After sailing through the windshield of a car on September 17, 2002 I sustained a traumatic brain injury.  Prior to my injury I spoke about topics EXACTLY like most of you, with facts, references to the factual information, bible verses, excessive verbiage and the like. Now, I remember very few facts etc to throw at a theist and sometimes can barely keep up with most atheists and their facts! (I feel really dumb on here) Coincidentally, I retained my sense of humor and much of the information I use professionally (Veterinary Dermatology Technician) but had to be reintroduced to pet grooming. (I clearly retained my ability/disability to use excessive verbiage--it is far worse putting my thoughts into words, it is much easier to put my thoughts onto paper.) Most of the things I retained filtered back over a period of 5-6 years, some things are a total blank, and I now find theists incredibly HILARIOUS!  I find that I think far more simply now and usually find the lowest common denominator first.  Therefore, I think the reason why most atheists use excessive verbiage is because we have to explain, explain, explain to the millions of theists/nonthinkers surrounding us, the slightest fact or bible verse!  We get used to constantly over-explaining ourselves to people that do not think, that we do it even if we are surrounded by wonderful, thinking atheists! Who cares why a theist uses excessive verbiage?  Only the sheep listen to them anyway! BAAAAAA

Paula, you are eloquent.

Dogly, you only say that because you sense my desire to pinch your little furry cheeks and kiss you right on the nose!

I confess: I don't even try to discuss things with the religious. Their minds are made up -- and I figure if they aren't hurting anyone, let them be. But I am in awe of those of you who try over and over and over again. Maybe you will occasionally find someone whose mind is not totally closed, and can have a productive conversation with them.

But when it comes to those religious people who ARE hurting others, then it becomes very difficult for me. I have neither the experience of a Christian or Muslim upbringing, nor the stomach to read their writings, so I'm at an extreme disadvantage in talking to them. When it comes to ultra-orthodox Jews, most of them are either in the East or in Israel, so, living in the West, I never come into contact with them.

So maybe the best I can do is contribute to organizations which go to court in support of separation of church and state, my beloved First Amendment freedom. And let you verbose people do the talking, LOL!!

Some of us go to court, and some of us go to jail, to support the separation of state and church.  Some of us do both.  Look up the atheist news (just google or search) of Polk County, FL.  Go back almost a year, and up to the present.  We have an unsung heroine at Atheists of FL.  Though atheists do not try to be martyrs, she was made one.  All the facts did not show up in the news reports, which are very biased. Since the case has just begun against the Polk County sheriff and others, I can't say much.  This will be a groundbreaking case.  It may change things for all of us.   It is scary to stand up against religious discrimination and the establishment of religion by our government.  Are there city, county, school board meetings in your town where prayers are recited and led by clergy?  Can you gather some local atheists to attend and speak against this unconstitutional practice?  Be careful, do your homework, and DON'T go alone!  Have an attorney on call. The ACLU may help, but not until "all hell breaks loose".  OR, you can support the legal defense funds of those who have put their freedom, businesses, health, and homes at risk to fight for our rights. Atheists of FL web site has a place to do this.

I live in Reno, Nevada, and while I am SURE there are other atheists and agnostics here (my brother, his wife, their son -- I have an atheist/agnostic family!), I don't really know how to connect up with them. Religion is generally not much of an issue here (after all, we are the most sinful state in the union), but you are right, I could do some research. I DO support Americans United, People for the American Way, ACLU, Freedom from Religion Foundation and American Humanist Organization. I also support Gay organizations, partly because my beloved nephew is gay, and partly because I believe so strongly in human rights of equality. I would do more if my poor bruised budget could handle it! :-)

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