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April 11, 2012


Gordon C

I am torn between admiring a larger vocabulary and having to always explain what I am saying.

I never liked mid/high level managers using "utilize" in the place of "use". That always sounded pretentious.

"Efficacious" coming from a writer (and professor?) seems er... an "efficient utilization"?


I should take a hiatus from pretentious, big words, but then again I love the word hiatus.

Tom Welch

In the past when I used the word efficacious I was told to remove this word from final report.

Jeff J

Hiatus, yes. Efficacious, no.

Doug T.

"Efficacy" is part of my working vocabulary. But I use the word differently than you.

You mention "efficacious, meaning more efficient." But to me, the meaning of "efficacy" is closer to "effective."

What is the difference between "efficacy" and "effectiveness"? To me, "efficacy" refers to effectiveness in a narrow scope. For example, we talk about the "efficacy" of a drug in clinical trials, or under a controlled situation. In contrast, "effectiveness" refers to more general situations.

I do not think there is any flaw or pretense involved with having a wide vocabulary, if there is a nuanced difference between the words.

This is an ancient characteristic in English -- at least since 1088. We raise cow (Anglo-Saxon) and eat beef (Norman French). We raise pig (Anglo-Saxon) and eat pork (Norman French). Guess who was doing the work, and who was benefiting! Those words originally were pure synonyms (albeit in different dialects), but no adult native English speaker will mix them up now!

If a fancy word is being used as a synonym for a simpler word to make the speaker sound more important, then that is mere affectation; but if there is a careful distinction between the words, then a broad vocabulary is admirable.

Ed S

FYI: It means effective; not efficient.

Bill B.

The one I used to get from students was "effectual", usually following "very", to describe a person. I never got an answer when I asked for elucidation.


That Panny floater eBay 300692879818 is at $255 with a day to go. Seems high. Bidding history shows 4 separate bidders with between 20000 and 99000 winning bids...talk about effective. They are bidding high and buying a lot...what's up???

Tom Welch

Checkout the meaning in this dictionary resource, the mother of all dictionaries: http://www.onelook.com/

Bill B.

Tom, thanks for that sweet dictionary link! I have added it to my TOOLS AND REFERENCE bookmarks.


Can we agree to stop "utilizing" these overused words: Ubiquitous and quintessential? Actually, there's another one that escapes me at the moment. Probably a good thing---I've driven it out of my mind.

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