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I am looking for a word that incorporates all, or most, of the following (when referring to a sentence or a piece of technical literature):

  • Highly academic
  • Not useful (despite being technically correct)
  • Overly verbose/eloquent
  • Superfluous (to be honest, this seems to incorporate the rest, but I want to see if there is a better word here)

Sample sentence (I hear it's required):

There are many ____ white-paper definitions which only serve to dazzle the reader with the author's purported intelligence.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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  • I propose the word sufflatoriate (verb and adjective) whose meanings you will have to educe for yourself. – TRomano Jul 11 '17 at 19:17
  • Serving as a noun or adjective, pseudointellectual might fit the bill. From Wiktionary: (Noun) A person who claims proficiency in scholarly or artistic activities while lacking in-depth knowledge or critical understanding. – John Bentin Jul 12 '17 at 9:05
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    I can get my head around overly verbose, but overly eloquent? It seems to me OP is just indulging his anti-intellectualism (commonly expressed as deprecation of education and philosophy or dismissal of art, literature, and science as impractical and even contemptible human pursuits). So we should probably avoid "erudite, difficult" terms here and go for things like clever-clogs and smarty-pants. – FumbleFingers Jul 12 '17 at 16:11
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    I agree with FumbleFingers. The word used in this context should avoid sounding equally pretentious as the person it is supposed to describe. Maybe "fancypants" or something like it. – mathreadler Jul 12 '17 at 16:55
  • MODERATOR NOTE: Answers should consist mostly of your own words. If a question solicits nothing but copypasta, it should be closed. – tchrist Jul 12 '17 at 21:20

12 Answers 12

36

The two most common, apart from Lux's pretentious, are going to be

pedantic

  1. in the manner of a pedant, hence

    a. excessively concerned with minutiae.
    b. needlessly displaying academic learning.

and

pompous

  1. (originally) characterized by pomp and splendor.

  2. (now the primary sense) affectedly solemn and self-important.

You'd use the first if the important aspect was how unimportant the information being shared was, the later if you wanted to emphasize the (undeserved) self-importance with which it was being shared.

Since scholars have been writing for ages and this kind of behavior was, if anything, more common during the era when all scholars were monks, there are absolute scads of synonyms for variants and subvarieties. Some, like precious, could be considered gendered slurs; others, like bookish or nerdy, may not be taken as negative at all in our present culture. Two of my favorites are mumpsimus and sumpsimus.

30

sententious
adjective /senˈten.ʃəs/
trying to appear wise, intelligent, and important, in a way that is annoying:
The document was sententious and pompous.
--Cambridge Dictionary

The word signifies the thoughtless serial quotation of distilled wisdom that would only be wise in the correct context, but not when parroted as a received opinion by someone oblivious to the quotations' actual meaning and scope.

In the same way, by extension, the term may be applied to the careless quotation of scientific truths, engineering practices, or legal maxims, when used to support propositions for which those truths are either wholly irrelevant, or perhaps only relevant by way of unintended (and unrecognized) irony.

Sententious also has non-pejorative usages, but those are not so relevant to this question.

10

The OP does not make clear whether the 'learned' author is writing 'in an ivory tower' (i.e. unaware that their language is difficult for 'ordinary' people to follow) or, whether the 'learned' author is intentionally trying to impress/show-off.

In the former case, where the brilliant scholar is writing honestly and simply to express ideas as best they can, words that could serve the sample sentence are:

Arcane - Hidden, concealed, secret (OED). Often used of knowledge.

Abstruse - Difficult to understand; obscure, recondite (OED).

Recondite - Esp. of a subject of study or discussion: little known or understood; abstruse, obscure; profound (OED)

In situations where the learned author is intentionally trying to show-off/impress then words described in other answers here - pompous, sententious, pretentious and especially pedantic (exaggeratedly or absurdly learned, OED) - probably fit better.

  • 2
    Please consider your “answer” — and perhaps this question itself — in light of this post from one of Stack Exchange’s Community Managers (an employee) on Single word requests, crosswords, and the fight against mediocrity. You might also consider our Help Center’s directions on how to reference material written by others in posts that should be mainly your own words rather than copypasta. – tchrist Jul 12 '17 at 2:05
  • @tchrist - a fair cop. Thanks for the interesting links. I'm inclined to agree with Martha (first answer to first link) - SWR are often an interesting challenge. But I do agree too that answers like my first effort here are dull. – Dan Jul 12 '17 at 10:14
9

Might I humbly suggest:

esoteric ˌɛsəˈtɛrɪk,ˌiːsəˈtɛrɪk; adjective
intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest.

-OR-

grandiloquent ɡranˈdɪləkwənt; adjective
pompous or extravagant in language, style, or manner, especially in a way that is intended to impress.

*Personal note: Neither quite fulfill the "not useful" condition. Personally speaking, I think "arcane" could work, if one tries to not automatically think of dragon summoning and all that fantasy stuff.

Source: Both from Dictionary.com. Click on the words to link through.

8

fustian

adjective

  1. cheap; worthless
  2. pompous; bombastic

    Look it up here

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • Bonus points if the scholarship concerns 'Orientalism' or the Middle East. – lly Jul 11 '17 at 5:09
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    Native speaker here (American) and I've never heard that word...who would even use that? Its so hoity toity and over the top ...oh, ....wait. .., – BruceWayne Jul 11 '17 at 5:19
  • Heh. Defining ‘fustian’ with ‘bombastic’ is quite neat little inside joke. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 11 '17 at 10:29
  • @BruceWayne: It is used all the time here in New York, especially among the lower classes. "Brachiate" and "perspicacious" are also popular. – Ricky Jul 11 '17 at 19:28
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    @Ricky In my neck of the woods, the lower classes swear by lexiphanic instead. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 11 '17 at 19:29
5

You may also consider convoluted.

There are many convoluted white-paper definitions which just serve to confuse the reader in a vain attempt to dazzle the reader with the author's purported intelligence.

ODO:

convoluted
ADJECTIVE

1 (especially of an argument, story, or sentence) extremely complex and difficult to follow.
‘its convoluted narrative encompasses all manner of digressions’

‘This is the kind of convoluted wording that pops up on a regular basis, and my head still hurts trying to untangle it.’

  • I would suggest convoluted as I think the current definition of the word has drifted from the dictionary definitions to mean something like "unnecessarily complicating a simple subject in a way that doesn't ultimately make any sense" (that isn't the dictionary definition though). It does not necessarily carry the tone of "academic" either. Still, I think it is BETTER than some of the answers as it more strongly suggests a flawed approach – Tom22 Jul 12 '17 at 20:58
5

Funnily enough…

academic

adj. not of practical relevance; of only theoretical interest.

(from Oxford Dictionaries Online)

I think it's clear where this meaning came from!

A further discussion on this point would be academic.

4

I think the word "turgid" could fit nicely here. From Google:

turgid ˈtəːdʒɪd adjective

1. swollen and distended or congested. "a turgid and fast-moving river" synonyms: swollen, congested; More

2. (of language or style) tediously pompous or bombastic. "some turgid verses on the death of Prince Albert" synonyms: bombastic, pompous, overblown, overripe, inflated, high-flown, affected, pretentious, grandiose, florid, flowery, ornate, magniloquent, grandiloquent, rhetorical, oratorical, orotund; More

  • "Google" is not an acceptable reference on ELU. – tchrist Jul 12 '17 at 21:16
  • Apparently google uses ODO. – marcellothearcane Jul 12 '17 at 21:52
  • I checked ODO and even Merriam Webster but neither matched the one from google and I couldn't find the source on Google itself. And this appeared above the search bar and not on a link from Google so I included Google as the source. – Ikun Jul 15 '17 at 12:02
2

I don't think mine is as good as some of the other answers out there, but I figured I should offer some more options.

sesquipedalian

given to using long words

gnostic

possessing knowledge, especially esoteric knowledge of spiritual matters

jargony/jargonistic

The noun form (jargon) has these definitions:

1. the language, especially the vocabulary, peculiar to a particular trade, profession, or group: medical jargon.

2. unintelligible or meaningless talk or writing; gibberish.

2

The correct word is Fustian:

2. An inflated style of writing; a kind of writing in which high-sounding words are used, above the dignity of the thoughts or subject; bombast. [1913 Webster] Claudius . . . has run his description into the most wretched fustian. Addison. [1913 Webster]

Source

More than just bombastic, the word denotes the use of the unnecessary elevated style of writing without a useful purpose.

1

rhetorical

expressed in terms intended to persuade or impress.

loquacious

tending to talk a great deal; talkative.

grandiloquent

pompous or extravagant in language, style, or manner, especially in a way that is intended to impress.

magniloquent

using high-flown or bombastic language.

  • I think none of these do it - rhetorical doesn't cover the "overly verbose" aspect, equivocal is not what I am looking for, and the other three probably shouldn't be used while accusing someone of being superfluous/pretentious. I appreciate the reply though. – VSO Jul 11 '17 at 1:23
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    Sorry I edited the equivocal. My mistake. Removed it. I meant equivocation but it doesn't work well in your example sentence and doesn't have a great adjective form to use. I'll find some others. – Kace36 Jul 11 '17 at 1:27
  • Pompous, pleonasm, tautology, circumlocution? Anything like that? – Kace36 Jul 11 '17 at 1:28
  • I think pedantic is what I wanted, thanks for the help though, really. Pompous is close, but doesn't indicate being overly academic. The other's are not colloquial. – VSO Jul 11 '17 at 1:40
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    @tchrist I wasn't familiar with the euphemism "copypasta" but I obviously gather its meaning now. Are these not all copypasta answers here then? Should we simply not answer? I ask because I have tried using my own words but people then groaned about not using dictionary sources and citations. Please give some guidance on that if you will? Thanks. – Kace36 Jul 12 '17 at 21:26
0

The word that first came to my mind is ponderous, which conveys the verbosity and academical nature of a work

  1. of great weight; heavy; massive.
  2. dull and labored: a ponderous dissertation.

Or perhaps heavy, which can typically refer to any kind of text which is hard to read

  1. of major import; grave; serious: a heavy offense.
  2. deep or intense; profound: a heavy thinker; heavy slumber.

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