CXXXI. Is 'Mea Culpa' Just a Fancy Way for Saying 'My Bad'? -

There are definite disparities in the way in which people speak and write when speaking and writing in the same language.

The distinction between said parties goes beyond diction. The whole concept of diction entails a deliberate phrasing of something in order to invoke a desired reaction. This applies to those who supposedly speak without thinking as well because, in essence, they are thinking — brain signals are still being used — however, they are not necessarily taking the time to think.

Differences in same-language speak can be correlated to the social strata that a person finds themselves in. In many cases, those who grew up in an under-privileged area, tend to speak with less grammatical correctness and even more rarely, intentional metaphorical meticulousness in order to drive home an abstract idea.

Sometimes, speakers of the same language and of similar capacities, have a limited knowledge bank of obscure or antiquated vocabulary. One day, someone whose first language was not English but otherwise speaks English fluidly and without any accent, (aside from an American one though I still do not know what that means), heard a TODAY show anchor refer to the country singer, Lady Antebellum.

The listener then asked me, “what does antebellum mean?” Immediately my American-educated mind that was required to house two years of Latin pedagogy in high school, SAT prep courses, and most recently a mind that took to independently studying for the GRE such that the practice of deriving definitions from prefix and suffix stems was engraved, thought up an answer.

“Ante” refers to before or prior to. “Bellum” refers to war. Therefore, Antebellum is an adjective to describe an environment that is about to or is presently, in the midst of war.

I am a regular viewer of Food Network programs. There have been quite a few times during cooking competitions when a chef makes a dish that he/she wholeheartedly stands behind but is severely decried by the panel of judges who are chefs in their own right.

After the dish in question has been attacked by a barrage of facial expressions, there have been cases when the chef in the line of fire not only defends his/her dish, but tells the panel that if a critically acclaimed chef had created the very same dish, that chef would be praised.

I feel that the chef has every right to voice this hypothetical truism.

The judges always respond ubiquitously. They charge the chef with being unable to handle criticism. They may even accuse the chef of possessing an unhealthy amount of self-confidence.

But what is genius if not self-proclaimed?

When I write, I do not deliberately use words that are more than five syllables. I do not intend to write with prolixity. I write how I speak and how I understand. I write for people who want to read the facts as opposed to the equivalent of the a baby comes from a stork story.

Staging words so that they are less than five syllables is not the equivalent to flexing laconic writing muscles, it is oversimplifying.

Not everything can be broken down if the subject or imagery’s inherent complexity does not allow it. Ever wonder why physics and calculus are not considered the easiest of subjects? They are inherently complex subject matters, relative to, let’s say, a spelling exam.

Lexicon means just short of a lot to me. I say this because in the midst of picking up on subway-reading as a daily routine and having compiled a document that spans over 9 pages of typed words I cannot articulate definitions for, I clearly do not care enough about vocabulary to prevent me from creating said Word document.

Currently in the midst of writing application essays for humanities-centric graduate school programs, I have come face-to-face with a prompt that informs the applicant of what NOT to do.

Do not write poetically or in ‘purple prose.’

Admittedly, I could construe what the above alliteration presented from it’s own phrasing exemplifying what the phrase means itself as well as the context in which the phrase was positioned - among other obscene writing flaws.

I looked up the meaning for ‘purple prose’ and will relay the Wikipedia entry to you:

“Written prose that is so extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw excessive attention to itself. Purple prose is sensually evocative beyond the requirements of its context. It may also employ certain rhetorical effects such as exaggerated sentiment or pathos in an attempt to manipulate a reader’s response.”

Since when did the concept of a description constitute the makings of a writer’s power trip?

If someone is reading a text that is not a script but that is still written with the intent of sounding as though the words were meant to be spoken, the writing time may as well have been better spent recording spoken words.

If the admissions committee covet a curtailed autobiography, void of whimsy but personable, they should have included the option to upload an audio file to their online application portal and do without the contradictory instructions.

Mea cupla is not just a fancy way for saying the altogether inane eubonics-classified “my bad.” There was a degree of thoughtfulness in conceptualizing the former, the Latin sentence turned common phrase used in English-speaking societies, in contrast to the deliberately shortened way for expressing fault.