Chris Heard on Pretentious Words
Kudos to Chris Heard for taking after pretentious-sounding words. He objects to scholars' use of the words "pericope" and "praxis":
"Why do biblical scholars use, and teach their students to use, the word 'pericope' when the simple English word 'passage' means the same thing and will do just fine? I can discern no valuable semantic reason for using 'pericope' instead of 'passage.' Ditto for using 'praxis' instead of 'practice.'"In comments on Chris' blog, I responded as follows:
"The problem isn't confined to academia. Take the word 'utilize': 'use' can be substituted 99.99% of the time for this pretentious-sounding word. But some people say (or write) 'utilize' all the time, instead of the rare .01% cases where it's necessary.For instance, "utilize" works better than "use" when one is trying to convey profitable or practical use for something. The term "praxis" (which I admittedly loathe) is supposed to carry an emphasis of theory in conjunction with practice. As for "pericope", I've no idea how this improves on "passage", but it probably does in a way that warrants its usage once in a blue moon.
"I suspect that 'pericope' and 'praxis' are analogous to 'utilize'. They work better (or with more precision) than 'passage' and 'practice' only .01% of the time, but people use them 85% of the time anyway, because it makes them sound smart and scholarly."
Pretentious-sounding words have reasons for existing, but perhaps they wouldn't sound so pretentious if they were used as judiciously and rarely as warranted.
UPDATE: Thanks to commenters below for distinctions between "pericope" and "passage". On Chris' blog, Jack Poirier comments further as follows: "I use 'pericope' when I mean... a unit delimited by a narrative change of some sort, and I use 'passage' when I mean... just the words in question, and, as far as I can tell, that's what everyone else does. I don't even think the two terms (at least as commonly used) are close to being synonyms." So I guess "pericope" is a bit more useful than either "utilize" or "praxis".