Potentate of the Polysyllable
Logorrhoeac, polymagisterial, omniglottal, panchromatic, Anthony Burgess was the most wordy literary figure I have ever met. I use those faintly ludicrous terms of praise because, before I met him, I was hardly aware of their existence. He employed them, with a thousand variants, all the time, in a dozen languages. He was the potentate of the polysyllable. To him, language was a currency: he loved to employ five-, ten- and twenty-pound words, abstruse Latinate constructions, arcane ‘inkhorn terms’, throwing them around like a sailor on shore leave, to show his enthusiasm for the world as he encountered it, a battlefield of huge, mostly ancient ideas which only he, like a twentieth-century Casaubon, could synthesize, using all the words in the dictionary.
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