When I was around 13 and still in junior high school, we had a discussion at the dinner table in our home in Massachusetts one Sunday afternoon that was intellectually stimulating, as was often the case.
My older brother was telling us an anecdote about Mr. Tighe, his English teacher at Canton High School.
A girl student had written a paper for Mr. Tighe in which she used the archaic word yclept, meaning named or called. It was used by Chaucer and Milton.
Mr. Tighe ridiculed her for this. He observed that the simplest and clearest word was always desirable.
Being only 13 and not savvy, I was quite surprised to hear this. I spoke up at the dinner table, and said, “I thought that writers were supposed to use big words.”
“Oh no,” my father, Alan W. Smith — who, besides being a musician, was superbly articulate — said, “you should always use the plainest, simplest word.”
I never forgot this discussion and remark. It was a revelation to me, the start of learning how to write well.
It was a salutary “lesson.”
— Roger W. Smith