Research: MLP: Hitting the very bottom of the barrel

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Help, Dear Readers! The situation is dire. Calamitous, dreadful (anything but “very bad”). Bored to the point of fainting, one might say — comatose, spent (how much more these words convey!).

Why, you begrudgingly ask?

Because (writers have license to occasionally begin with a conjunction, or perhaps it’s the aforementioned calamity, but MLP does digress) — because once upon a time, Americans had a vocabulary broader than the average fourth-grader (i.e., more comprehensive, wide-ranging, anything but “very big”).

Synonyms are not mere substitutions. They can convey more — a matter of degree, of specificity. Simple, for example, can mean so many things. Unadorned — free of decoration or embellishment. Of low intellect. Pure and unadulterated. Which do you mean when you say “simple?”

This is why your MLP is addicted to old movies. Ah! Those long-lost years when American speech was so quick-witted, so clever, so astute! Sigh.

When books curried more interest, feeding the intellect. Double sigh.

In aid of that faint-hearted Snitty Old Biddy, and of those lonely and most-neglected dictionary and thesaurus, please, Dear Reader, consider these:

Very noisy? Deafening, ear-splitting, raucous (sound); flamboyant, flashy, gaudy (style).

Very painful? Excruciating, raw, throbbing; grievous, harrowing, heart-rending (emotion).

Very shy? Timid. Nervous. Cautious.

Very simple. Basic, unadorned, plain, pure.

Very quiet? Hushed, noiseless, taciturn (reserved).

Very rich? Wealthy, affluent (assets); ironic; luxuriant or opulent (décor), tasty (food).

Very poor? Destitute, broke, indigent; barren, desolate, or infertile (land); light, meager or scarce (less than normal); wanting, subpar, deficient, or inferior (substandard).

Very short? Brief, quick (time), petite (size).

Very scared? Petrified, horrified.

Less scared? Timid, hesitant, reticent.

Very old? Ancient, archaic, MLP (how rude!).

Very smart? Brilliant, clever, shrewd.

Very painful? This one is almost endless. Excruciating, unbearable, torturous, agonizing, insufferable — just like your Mrs. Language Person.


Mrs. Language Person and Sholeh Patrick are word nerds and columnists for the Hagadone News Network who lament English’s slow (gradual or sluggish, not balmy or brainless — or is it?) death by neglect. Contact them at

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