Tuesday, September 7, 2010




: using or involving the use of a minimum of words : concise to the point of seeming rude or mysterious

I'd like to talk about how a minimal use of words is considered rude or mysterious. Something another young girl said to me as child sticks with me. (Forgive my redundancy: I know I've used this anecdote many times) Second grade, perusing the school field with a pack of girls a few steps ahead of my social development, I hang back, quiet, observing, taking it all in. It doesn't take long for my lack of responsiveness to call attention to itself.

"What's the matter, Candace? Cat got your tongue?" says the designated leader. The other girls laugh, crossing their arms and shifting their body weight from leg to leg. I had nothing to respond, not that they even cared. They moved on and I stood where I was.

Now, at the ripe age of seven, I was not being intentionally LACONIC by any means. In groups of strangers I tend to freeze up, shy away, fear judgment; the appropriate words are often trapped or lost or constipated. I don't think people consider me rude or mysterious—mostly just socially inept. Those girls didn't think I was being mysterious, they thought I was being pathetic, and they rightfully called me out, as seven-year-old girls will.

When I imagine LACONIC, I imagine a deliberate pinching of words, mostly for effect—whether that is rudeness, or mystery, or intrigue. In a culture which often begs for verbal diarrhea, brevity of language certainly does stand out. I confess to being attracted to people who are terse with their words, mostly because I assume there's a river of wisdom running underneath the uncomplicated surface. I am often wrong. Many LACONIC people have nothing more to say than what they initially offer, and I have found this out the hard way, more than once.

However, I still believe in leaving a little to the colloquial imagination. Perhaps there's a happy medium between LACONIC and, say, verbose. I suppose that might be...vernacular.

Note: I discovered the above image while doing a search for the phrase "terse with words." The internet amazes me, every day.

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