I’m moved to write this because my fellow Americans have fallen into slack ways when it comes to our mother tongue. We simply do not use enough words in our daily discourse and many that we do use are used wrongly. We are, in a word, imprecise. This not good.
Back in the day when I sold pay telephones, my sales mangler, Harold, often asked why I used so many “two-bit words”. I told him that I use them because they are the appropriate words for the context in which they are used. I also told Harold that were we to take his (spurious) argument to its logical conclusion, we’d certainly simplify our language alright; we’d end up with the Primal Grunt, an utterance which means everything.
Q: How you do’in today, Harold?
No sir, words are like the tools in a mechanic’s tool cabinet; there’s one for every purpose under heaven. Would you hire a mechanic to set the valve lash on your Aston-Martin if all he had were a claw hammer and a crescent wrench? No? I thought not. Why then do people find a scanty vocabulary so admirable?
Also consider this: When you think, you think in your principal language, which is American. If you do not have enough words stored in your brain, you cannot think with sufficient clarity and precision to accurately transmit your thoughts to your interlocutor.
So starting today, I shall offer a word, its definition from Webster’s, plus a paragraph or two in which it is used correctly. However, I shall begin with two words which are all too often mistaken for one another. Here goes.
REDACT re·dact \ri-ˈdakt\ transitive verb meaning “to put in writing”. Examples:
1 The newspaper spent a whole week redacting the President’s three hour harangue, turning it into a six-part series for the Sunday supplement.
2 From all the boss’s bits, snippets and rough notes, his sedulous staff redacted a passable manuscript ready for the publisher.
CENSOR /sensər/ verb meaning “examine (a book, movie, etc.) officially and suppress unacceptable parts of it”. Examples:
1 Joseph Stalin had purged Yezhov, chief of the KGB, so Stalin censored all archival photos to remove Yezhov’s image.
2 The Hays Commission was Hollywood’s official censor. Should Will Hays see something in a movie he deemed salacious, he ordered it cut from the finished product.
3 The Air Force didn’t want the public to know about the aliens being held at Area 51 so it censored all documents, blacking-out any reference to them and their flying saucer.