To invert Orwell, "Always use a long word where a short word will do."
So you’re sitting there yawning through another minute and a half surf doc trailer of John John Florence blasting off the lip of some wave in some place and then getting super pitted in some MIR machine in some hospital somewhere.
All-in-all it’s pretty much just another trailer for another surf doc you’ll gawp your way through during some future lunchbreak just like the one your frittering away right now reading this.
In this case it’s for some doc called Tokyo Rising.
Then Kelly Slater pops up.
Well, I mean, it is a surf doc after all. You dutifully zone out.
But then something isn’t quite right –
Wait; what did he just say?
You drag the video back a few seconds.
You drag it back again.
“Inevitably for both he and I there’s some level of….” he says, and then: “‘uncompactivity”? “Uncommuncativity?”
You fiddle with the Youtube speed settings and listen again, straining to hear every syllable.
It sounds like ‘uncomfortability’.
Is that a word?
That’s not a word.
But hang on, it might actually be a word.
Why doesn’t he just say discomfort?
Does he not know the word discomfort?
It’s four syllables shorter than the one he just said, so why not say it?
Surely a man of Kelly’s stature is familiar with George Orwell’s essay Politics and the English Language, in which the author explicitly advises in his six rules of writing to “never use a long word where a short one will do.”
Couldn’t he have just gone with awkward?
Or stuck with the more conventional adjective uncomfortable?
Or is that the whole point?
Is he looking for a book deal or a column in the New York Times or fishing for a Netflix documentary series and wanted to exhibit another level of eloquence by plucking a seven-word behemoth when a three-syllable synonym could have sufficed?
Fuck the Olympics. Fuck Florence.
That’s the doc I want to watch.
What the Hell is Up With Kelly Slater Saying This Word and is it Just Because He Doesn’t Know This Other Word? (Working title.)
Maybe not content with inventing large aspects of the world of modern surfing both within the performance of the sport itself as well as being a one-man motor for the commercialisation of surfing, Kelly is now taking it on himself to reconfigure the conventionalisms of the English language itself.
And, why did the producers not only to include it in the doc but also put it in the trailer?
Maybe they thought it sounded clever and articulate.
Maybe it’s because it’s Kelly Slater.
Maybe that’s what elven world titles can do to an interviewer, the difference between “I don’t think that’s actually a word mate, shall we do another take with some cue cards?” and “Thank you Mr Slater, you truly are a god amongst men. I hope the glare from our cameras didn’t make you too discomfortable”.
Once you get to a certain level of respect and admiration there is no wrong or right because there’s no one left to tell you one way or the other.
What in the mouth of a mere kook mortal is grounds for ridicule for an earnest looking top sportsman of a certain age and bank balance is just whatever he or she wants it to mean.