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Dan Klein’s Vocabulary Aphorism

Let your vocabulary be a source of pride not for the words it competently includes but for the words it scrupulously excludes.

A variation:

Sometimes a word remains outside a person's active vocabulary because she lacks the competence to include it, and sometimes because she has the competence to exclude it.


BTW, terms I exclude:

The exclusion is relatively absolute. In certain contexts I might say "utilitarians" to refer to a set of thinkers who describe themselves as “utilitarians." I might say ”postmodernism" to refer to the discourse of some set of authors who describe themselves as "postmodernist."

A term I do not exclude as strictly but try to avoid:

  • self-interest


Karl Kraus: "My language is the common street prostitute that I turn into a virgin."


(That Kraus quotation is among those I have collected here.)