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When do I use avocation and when do I use hobby?

Or can I use them interchangeably?

I need to choose between these two words or a url. Would www.kunalthehobbyist.com sound better or www.avocationistvyas.com?(My name is Kunal Vyas). I am planning it to be a blog like site for penning down opinions/tutorials/anecdotes on categorised topics, all of which are my hobbies/avocations.

Feel free to recommend me any better alternatives.

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Have you done any research on this question yourself? Then please say what in your question; otherwise please do some research yourself before asking. I wouldn’t generally use ‘avocation’ at all. It is a very formal and bookish word for something that is not very formal or bookish. If you are writing an article about a person and using very florid language and phrases as it is, you might (rhythmically and rhymingly) describe that person as nurturing an avocation in bonsai cultivation; but in most cases, I would take a more straightforward approach and simply say that he grew bonsai as a hobby. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 12 '13 at 9:18
    
Thanks @Janus for clearing that out for me. But I wish to use one of these words in a url. Which one would suit better? www.AvocationistVyas.com or www.KunalTheHobbyist.com? IMO, using 'hobby' in this url would sound very commonplace and trite. On the other hand I was hesitant to use 'avocation' as it is pretty arcane and esoteric. What do you recommend? –  Kunal Vyas Aug 12 '13 at 10:20
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You should edit that information into the question, and also add what the website will be for. We cannot tell you if one is too formal/informal if we do not know what the purpose is. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 12 '13 at 10:23
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I've been speaking English for over 60 years and would have had to think (at least) twice before knowing what avocation means! –  TrevorD Aug 12 '13 at 12:04
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@KunalVyas I'm hesitant to post this as an answer because it doesn't discuss avocation vs. hobby, but I wouldn't use either of those words for your URL. They are both very generic and don't really describe your site to any potential readers. A better title for your blog would be more descriptive of what your hobbies are, and your URL would reflect that title. –  called2voyage Aug 12 '13 at 13:41
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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

They are the same thing!

One comes from Latin (likely through the Normans AKA French):

avocare: to call away/from "ab" (away) + "vocare" (to call)

in plain English: The mountain is calling! (as in, work is done, time to ski!)

the other hobby from the name of a farm horse (with which you ride during one's leisure time)

Because French was spoken by the aristocrats in England during the Norman Conquest, words that have been adopted from French typically have a higher register than words of other origins. The register ranking:

  1. Latin (language of academics)
  2. French (language of aristocrats during a critical period in English history)
  3. Germanic (language of the Anglo-Saxons AKA most people at the time)
  4. Other (other adopted words)

What I think Janus Bahs Jacquet means when he stated that avocation is "bookish", is that it is a higher register word (used in formal situations).

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That is exactly what I meant (and I might add Greek on the same level as, or even above, Latin in that list). :-) –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 12 '13 at 10:09
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Given the extra information in your edit, I would say that hobby is the better word to go for. Avocation is too formal-sounding for your purpose.

I would suggest naming the site kunalshobbies.com or something similar. Short and simple, and it gets rid of the possibly negative connotations of the word ‘hobbyist’.

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But what’s a shobby? :) –  tchrist Aug 12 '13 at 10:36
    
@tchrist: He meant 'Kunal's hobbies'. –  Kunal Vyas Aug 12 '13 at 11:51
    
@tchrist It's a shoddy hobby ;-) –  TrevorD Aug 12 '13 at 12:02
    
@TrevorD That’s just what I was thinking! :) –  tchrist Aug 12 '13 at 12:30
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