Annum Novum Faustum Felicem!

Annum Novum Faustum Felicem! Thus I wish you cheer.

Annum Novum Faustum Felicem in the coming year!

Annum Novum Faustum Felicem, as I said before;

Annum Novum Faustum Felicem now and evermore!

I presume I’ve now made plain this Yuletide wish to you.

Explication would make it mundane: a fate I fain eschew.

Ergo, Annum Novum Faustum Felicem! How so well expressed!

Annum Novum Faustum Felicem simply says it best.

Id est: Happy New Year!

~ Eugene Meltsner, Adventures in Odyssey

I would like to share these warm wishes from Eugene Meltsner, even though his words are so, well, wordy. A number of them are in Latin, and even some of the ones in English are a little hard to follow.

When I was a child, I delivered unto my listeners the following pronouncement: “People don’t always understand me when I use big words, but say let ’em learn ’em!” (At any rate, my relatives tell me I made such a statement; I don’t remember it, but that’s hardly a surprise.) Even as an adult, I sympathize with Anne from Anne of Green Gables, who declares, “People laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas you have to use big words to express them, haven’t you?”

I like wordy words, but I’ll be the first to admit they have two faults. First, the purpose of language is communication, and fancy-sounding words don’t always fulfill that purpose. What’s the point of using those words if nobody understands them?

The second problem with a large vocabulary is that is gives an impression of self-conceit. People who use big words seem like they’re showing off. In college, a classmate once accused me of shaming others by flaunting my vocabulary. His criticisms really stung. After all, I don’t consider it a personal insult if other people are more skilled than I at dancing or baseball or repairing cars. Why should anyone be outraged if I use big words? My classmate and I argued about it until a professor shut us up.

In the end, as much as I appreciate fancy-sounding words for their power to convey precise shades of meaning, I acknowledge they aren’t suitable for many contexts. The value of language is in being understood, not in seeming smart.

That said, instead of repeating Mr. Meltsner’s unintelligible benedictions, I’ll just say, “Happy New Year,” and leave it at that.

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