So I have a new rule of thumb when it comes to deciding whether a word qualifies as plain language: if it’s not in the standard version of a good dictionary (for example, my trusty Webster’s New World College Dictionary (4th Ed.) or an on-line one like www.merriam-webster.com) I think it’s safe to say the word is too highfalutin to be used in most communication.
I was in a conversation the other day and the person I was speaking with used the word convivium. Not (usually) too embarrassed to admit when I didn’t know what a word means and, of course, certainly not too embarrassed to ask how the word is spelled, I asked both questions. The person (graciously) spelled it and defined it for me.
Intrigued (and because I had kind of forgotten the definition), I went on-line to look it up. When I went into the Merriam-Webster site that I usually use and I typed in the word, the message that popped up surprised me. Though it’s clear that it’s a word (and I spelled it correctly), the message said that to get the definition I had to go to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged site which is a subscription-based site. (I should note that there was a free trial offer for the Unabridged version, but I didn’t try it. Instead, I decided to look for it in my regular dictionary (Webster’s New World College Dictionary (4th Ed.).)
Well, turns out it’s not in my regular dictionary either. So, unless someone out there has a less-abridge dictionary than I do, or perhaps subscribes to Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged site and wants to share the definition of convivium, I’m not going to worry it. I’ll stick to plain language words.