I used to do crosswords all the time. Then I got a smartphone. Now I just kill time browsing the Internet.
But I always take one or two aboard a plane, because there are long stretches where you can’t use electronic devices, and everything, including my books, are on electronic devices.
Anyway, I was on a plane yesterday doing a puzzle and the clue for 24-Down was, “extremely important.” I thought, “Critical?” Too long. “Vital?” Too short. After filling in most of the blanks with the across words, I realized it was “crucial.”
I hardly ever use crucial. I’d forgotten about it. And I use critical and vital a LOT. It seems every client service, every initiative, every breakthrough is critical or vital or important or necessary. And it starts to get repetitive. So now I have “crucial” to (re)add to my repertoire.
I do that a lot. I distinctly remember the day back at Ogilvy that I rediscovered the word “fortify.” Because you can only support or reinforce or strengthen things so many times.
Some people get really excited about discovering and using brand new words. But when I hear them tossing off words like, say, “perspicacious” in casual conversation, I think they sound pretty pretentious. Or like George Will. (Same difference.)
Of course, I’m aware that words like critical and crucial can be overused and misused to the point where they’re meaningless, but that’s another story.