Sunday, October 12, 2008

Obscure words to impress your friends: Plaudit

A horse named plaudit who went on to sire Sarah Jessica Parker.

Greetings fellow lexicologists. After a long delay, I'm back with another word for you, continuing the short-running series: Rare Words in my Productive Vocabulary. Basically, I rack my brain for a suitably rare word, provide my advice on its meaning and usage, and then describe the first site that I find using it on google. Also, I pepper the post with random image-search pics I found using the same word as a search term. It is exactly as entertaining as it sounds.
And so, I eagerly await your plaudits, because this week's (month's? year's?) word is plaudit. It's just fun to say and it sounds just enough like applause for people to guess at your meaning.

In this case, I mean that I am literally waiting around for your literal and figurative applause or approval, knowing full well that I can never get any real confirmation or feedback, which means that I am in it for the long haul. In terms of register, which is to say 'the type of context in which use of the word is appropriate', I would say that plaudit should be treated like 'laurels'. Plaudits and laurels could be distributed at the same ceremony, much like newt's eyes and eagle talon or goat's blood and feces.

So, in other words, you'd only want to use the word plaudit when you are trying to strike a litterary, poetic tone, and when you are talking about an acknowledged accomplishment.

Or when you're trying to describe an awkward exchange of special dignity and magnificence.

I googled it, and it turns out that a few design companies have that name. It is also a popular choice among horse-breeders. It was even the name of an actual horse or twenty.

I had to go all the way down to page six before running into a page that was actually using the word. It was an article on some sort of wetland restoration project, entitled "Essex farm wins plaudit for letting the sea in" on the Surfbirds website. To put this into context, somebody thought it was a good idea to use the word plaudit in the title of some obscure web-article. A web-article that was ostensibly meant to inform people of something factual, not wax poetic. The article is uncredited, but whoever you are sir, I salute you!

You could have gone with 'accolades' or 'cudos' or 'praise' or something, but instead picked a relatively obscure word. Either you are brave or your audience is educated and pretentious as all fuck, and either possibility is pretty cool in my books.