What is prolixity?

Word count: 266 words

Reading time: About 1 minute

If you increase your vocabulary you’ll not only help your reading, you’ll also make your writing more precise. Here is my word of the week: prolixity.

One of the many great things about reading The New Yorker is that it allows you to become informed about books that you have no desire to read. When I read James Wood’s Aug. 13/12 review of the book My Struggle by Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard, I hit the jackpot.

Here was a book that held absolutely no appeal for me. But I was grateful to learn about it because Knausgaard is a bit of a publishing phenomenon. In 1998 he won the Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature with his debut novel, Out of This World. I’ll also not soon forget the title to his more recent book, My Struggle, because it it means Mein Kampf  in German. Yes, I’ve heard that one before!

But the New Yorker  review also gave me my word of the week —  prolixity. Here’s how Wood used it:

There is a flatness and a prolixity to the prose; the long sentences have about them an almost careless avant-gardism, with their controversial additions and splayed run-ons.

Prolixity means wordiness, verbosity or garrulousness. The root word prolix comes from the Old French term prolixe which, in turn, comes from the Latin prolixus meaning “extended,”  or “poured out.”

While the word prolixity is less common than its synonyms, I think it has the advantage of suggesting a self-satisfied verbosity, such as the kind you might encounter from a certain kind of academic.

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