Culture | Language | Poetry | Writing

The Sometimes Saucy Pedantic Wretch

I was presenting a PowerPoint slide translated from German to English Tuesday, wrapped up our meeting and was discussing a few key points when a woman next to me quietly yet publicly slid a piece of paper across the table to me. It seems there was a typo on one of the slides and she was helping me out by pointing out the incorrectly spelled word next to the correctly spelled word underlining the misplaced “a” in “intuitive” and the correct “i”. Yup, I saw it immediately, laughed and thanked her. Sometimes you see things that bug you so much that you won’t hear anything else in the entire meeting, and that happened to her.

I understand where she’s coming from. I fight pedantic tendencies myself and understood her need to fix something that clearly needed fixing. That she did it in front of the group in the meeting might have angered some, but for me it was a chance to laugh about it. I stopped worrying about such things years ago, and I was presenting other people’s material so how could I take it personally? But I immediately corrected the slide so it wouldn’t happen again (Never allow distractions to linger in your presentations).

I rarely use the word “pedantic” in a sentence. And I certainly wouldn’t ever combine words like “saucy pedantic wretch” into a phrase, but when I saw the three linked together in a poem I smiled. I mean, who does that? See there? My own pedantic tendencies flaring up. Anyway, I plucked these words out of a John Donne poem called The Sun Rising because they leap off the screen in a magical swirl just as they likely did for Donne as he put pen to paper writing them.

When someone uses the word “pedantic” or “wretch” they’re flagged in some circles as aloof. In this world of hipster speak who uses old dead guy words? Then again, the person lacing their sentence with clever words may well pity us our grasp of the English language. But a firm grasp of vocabulary can be either a gift or a verbal Heisman pushing people away: it’s all in how you use it. As I clumsily stumble along learning a bit of the French language I’m reminded to be more humble with the English language. It was clever for the muse to slip that Donne poem into my reading this morning. It got me thinking that, sure, sometimes I might be a saucy pedantic wretch too. But I have a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor about it. Ever since I read that poem I find myself swirling those words together like a tropical drink. And so I offer a toast to wretches everywhere.

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