Kudos to Chris Heard for taking after pretentious-sounding words. He objects to scholars’ use of the words “pericope” and “praxis”:
“Why do biblical scholars use, and teach their students to use, the word ‘pericope’ when the simple English word ‘passage’ means the same thing and will do just fine? I can discern no valuable semantic reason for using ‘pericope’ instead of ‘passage.’ Ditto for using ‘praxis’ instead of ‘practice.'”
In comments on Chris’ blog, I responded as follows:
“The problem isn’t confined to academia. Take the word ‘utilize’: ‘use’ can be substituted 99.99% of the time for this pretentious-sounding word. But some people say (or write) ‘utilize’ all the time, instead of the rare .01% cases where it’s necessary.
“I suspect that ‘pericope’ and ‘praxis’ are analogous to ‘utilize’. They work better (or with more precision) than ‘passage’ and ‘practice’ only .01% of the time, but people use them 85% of the time anyway, because it makes them sound smart and scholarly.”
For instance, “utilize” works better than “use” when one is trying to convey profitable or practical use for something. The term “praxis” (which I admittedly loathe) is supposed to carry an emphasis of theory in conjunction with practice. As for “pericope”, I’ve no idea how this improves on “passage”, but it probably does in a way that warrants its usage once in a blue moon.
Pretentious-sounding words have reasons for existing, but perhaps they wouldn’t sound so pretentious if they were used as judiciously and rarely as warranted.
UPDATE: Thanks to commenters below for distinctions between “pericope” and “passage”. On Chris’ blog, Jack Poirier comments further as follows: “I use ‘pericope’ when I mean… a unit delimited by a narrative change of some sort, and I use ‘passage’ when I mean… just the words in question, and, as far as I can tell, that’s what everyone else does. I don’t even think the two terms (at least as commonly used) are close to being synonyms.” So I guess “pericope” is a bit more useful than either “utilize” or “praxis”.