Sunday, June 04, 2006

"Doc P"

About 4 months after I met my buddy Mike on the job at Overstock, he began referring to me as "Doctor Pedantic," or "Doc P." for short. This was due to his observation of my continual search for just the right word for any given expression, often leading to obscure and less accessible language compared with more standard conventions. Not to be pretentious, but in search of accuracy in the flow of communication of often complex ideas and impressions (or reaching for understanding from those of others).

English is funny in its way - so many distinct flavors for almost any class of word, usually with differing origins and etymologies despite similar meaning. A tremendous and exceptional mish-mash of multicultural contributions that lead to rich but potentially convoluted phraseology. I rather like it: so many nuances can be deeply (referentially and intensely) represented with precision and passion through the selection of the appropriate tools of verbiage. Imagery can be invoked and passed on through simple (or not so simple) text, transmitting intimate constructs to the minds of others.

I exposed myself to much of this landscape at a young age as a voracious reader, seeking out and attaching to literature wherever I could find it. Much, if not most of it, stuck with me and found use in my conversation. To the point now where the composition of sentence and statement is probably more akin to the scrutiny of a fine Swiss-army style knife for the perfect tool, than to reflexive recitation of culturally or habitually influenced patterns (not that there's anything wrong with that - if it works, run with it).

I've recently begun to wonder though, if this habit of linguistic peculiarity might have been reinforced through other means, and not simply the product of precocious reading behavior.

In my renewed medical investigation of the various discomforts which have plagued me for the last decade, a new candidate has emerged as a possible explanation: the somewhat misleading designation of "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome," also known as CFIDS, myalgic encephalomyelitis (or encephalitis), and a few other names and designations. Very likely due to a chronic inflammation of the immune system leading to a host of symptoms, most of which I encounter on a regular basis (while I'm pleased to have a better explanation of what has been the cause of so great misery, and with a prognosis other than eventual death as is the case with Pulmonary Hypertension, I'm still left in an unresolved and dissatisfied state - but more on that later).

One of the prominent symptoms is that of cognitive impairment, often affecting speech (expressive rather than receptive aphasia). A lost feeling of "looking for the right word," or having something on the tip of the tongue, or some sensitive differentiation recently forgotten on the edge of memory. This happens to me a lot, along with its cousins of stuttering, poor short-term memory (I have to screen my emails and blog posts multiple times during composition to reduce and combine similar language and statements even from one sentence to the next), object or name recognition difficulty, etc. Difficult and frustrating, yes, but possible that the speech patterns I've cultivated are a coping mechanism as a direct result thereof. To create and torture an analogy, if I'm looking for an arrow in my quiver but can't find it, it's nice to have several others close at hand.

Regardless of source, the tendency causes my work to be almost immediately recognizable (and hard to hide) to those who know me well, and becomes one of my more remarkable attributes (more than one of the interviewers during my preparation to leave the last job asked if I had other educational background in language). Possibly born of frustration, hopefully it has and can continue to serve me well throughout my admittedly odd existence.

Likely to also provide amusement and ammunition to those who see it as a competitive or egotistical trait, eager to see one living by the Dictionary and Thesaurus such as myself tangled up in our own attempted pedantry. That's cool too.


Tall Paul said...

I am not satisfied with how this article turned out.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Paul. We're all out to get you :P