Banter? Yes, please! Sophisticated? No!

Banter? Yes, please! Sophisticated? No!

An astute reader -- no, make that one of the astute readers -- of this blog recently used the word banter to describe the comments section. I hadn't heard or read the word in so long that I, well, bantered back that she'd given me another idea for Words Worth Defending. (Poor old banter doesn't get out much, after all.)

Your (OK, our) comments do often achieve the dictionary's definition of banter, and I thank you for that.  Here are the definitions for the verb and the noun from my home dictionary:

Banter (verb): 1. to tease or make fun of in a playful, good-natured way. 2. to ridicule; to joke or jest about (rare). 3. to trick; to impose upon; to befool (archaic). (Befooling someone is archaic! No kidding!)

Banter (noun): 1. a joking or jesting; good-humored raillery; pleasantry. 2. a challenge to a match or contest (Colloquial, Southern and Western U.S.)

Banter's great stuff -- think of William Powell and Myrna Loy in "The Thin Man" movies, or more recently, Pierce Brosnan and Stephanie Zimbalist on TV's "Remington Steele" (which often referred to not only Powell and Loy, but many other movies). The couples bantered back and forth with great speed and playfulness.

But don't talk about banter being sophisticated -- unless you're insulting it! Sophisticated is just starting to need defending, at least for the first of its definitions:

Sophisticated (adjective): 1. characterized by  a lack of simplicity or naturalness; refined to the point of artificiality. 2. wordly-wise; not naive or ingenuous. 3. for sophisticates.

Oh, so you think you're a sophisticate (she bantered). Maybe so, but I hope not. Read on:

Sophisticate (noun): one who practices sophistry.

Sophistry (noun): fallacious reasoning; reasoning sound in appearance only.

So yes, let's have plenty of banter right here. But keep it genuine and natural.

Join in the banter! (Do avoid sophistication, however!) Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.


Filed under: Words Worth Defending


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  • The word 'sophisticate' over time has developed a more positive spin. Its, you might say, extreme makeover is called 'elevation' in linguistic terms.

    BTW, Shakespeare only used a form of the word once. 'Sophisticated' appears in Act III Scene 4 of King Lear:

    Lear: Ha, here's three on's are sophisticated.

    The Folger Shakespeare Library paperback edition says 'sophisticated' as used here means 'not pure or genuine'.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Thank you for your, er, elevated reply.

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