Monday, September 6, 2010

The Fine Art of Bombast

"[P]seudo-intellectual verbiage is the mark of someone overcompensating for the vapidity of his thought."

- James Maliszewski, from his blog, Grognardia, in a bit of self-deprecating humor.

Page 55 of Paizo Publishing's Pathfinder Game Mastery Guide is a full page of words that every GM should know. It's a pretty good list chock-full of juicy words, many of which you may or may not ever use outside the context of an RPG. Words like geophagy, defenestrate, and ichor. Last week I asked the kids to each pick two words from the list, write them down, look up their meanings, and write some sentences demonstrating understanding of the words. Just a little homework for them between sessions. They picked their words, and one of them chose "bombast." We made a slight modification to change her word to "bombastic."

She can tell you the definition, but she gets stuck trying to write the sentences. It seems she doesn't fully understand the meaning. So my wife and I started looking for examples from her books, movies, TV shows, etc. Well, right off the bat we learned that there's not as much bombast going on in children's entertainment as we had thought. At least no clear-cut cases that demonstrate bombast without it getting all tangled up with something else. Frasier Crane is a great example, of course, but our kids don't watch Frasier. Therefore I decided to take it upon myself to provide an example using the Savage Worlds game we're starting.

The assignment: the girls must read the following introductory passage that I wrote for our game. I'm also going to read it aloud to them in as pretentious a tone of voice as I can muster. Then, I'll ask my daughter if she can think of a word that describes the narrator's tone. Finally, all the girls will rewrite the passage in their own words, with instructions to avoid obfuscatory language.

Deep near the center of the galaxy, where glowing nebulae give birth to a profusion of brilliant, sparkling suns set amid shimmering curtains of stellar dust, a single planet revolves around the massive black hole comprising the galactic core. This planet is Sxibi, the heart and soul of the Great Alliance, and a shiny bastion of civilization’s wondrous triumph against the cold emptiness separating over a billion inhabited worlds. Here, among her beaming, pristine spires and the floating domes of her uninterrupted, globe-spanning metropolis, gather the greatest scholars, artists, philosophers, and scientists of the age, from every discipline and every species spanning the far reaches of space. Here, within her massive halls and over her glittering vistas are debates heard and ideas conceived that shape the lives of beings everywhere for millennia to come. Here, in its chamber beneath her pearly, glowing skies sits the Rryach, an eldrich super-being formed for the sole purpose of attempting to bring order from the chaos of more than a thousand million senators. And here, beneath her perfect veneer, dwelling in the deep shadows of her majestic architectures stretching higher into the sky than most can ever hope to see, are Sxibi’s teaming masses, numbering in the trillions, bustling about and eking out their meager livings by serving the needs of the rich and powerful, always alert for any opportunity to break out of the cold, subterranean depths and into the dazzling light of the upper echelons of Sxibian society.

FYI, "Sxibi" is pronounced "SH - bee," the first syllable being a schwa. It's just a little nonsense word that my middle daughter says, and it sounds funny when she does. And yeah, I know the passage isn't really the best example, but it is pretty bombastic compared to what they're used to.

No comments:

Post a Comment