When I started this blog, I thought it was obvious how ‘phdonderer’ should be pronounced. I was proven wrong on Friday, however, when some friends asked me about my ‘P.H. dondering’. When I was setting up my blog, I asked my husband what I should call it. Via text message, he suggested ‘the phdonderer’, which I immediately read in exactly the way he had meant it. Perhaps that’s because we’ve been together for 17 years and, as a result, we each know how the other one thinks. Perhaps we both think in an unusual way – we do tend to agree on a lot of subjects, from music to politics (this, however, does not extend to football or the most relaxing way to spend a Saturday – me: DIY, him: shooting zombies).

Anyway, the pronunciation of ‘phdondering’ got me thinking about words in general and, more specifically, words that can be difficult to pronounce or understand.

At the start of my PhD, I remember reading articles that I had been requested to read as part of a series of workshops. I also remember the pain that went with it. Almost every article I read I did so in conjunction with Google and a rather large dictionary. I began to think I would never get the hang of the words in those articles, as I started writing them all on post-it notes and sticking them around my desk. Soon, I had quite an impressive array of yellow and pink squares, each citing some obscure word that until the PhD I had either never come across or had previously chosen to ignore. If you ever use post-it notes, however, you’ll know that they lose their stick after a time. Slowly, but surely, the sticky became unstuck. The post-it notes dropped to the floor, unloved and unread.

As I continued to read over the course of the next year, I started to notice that I too was beginning to become unstuck. I was becoming more inclined to read without Google, and I was reaching for the dictionary less often. Did I suddenly understand all of those complicated words? No, not completely, anyway. I had, however, started to search my internal Google; the dictionary inside my head was starting to fill up.

As useful as it is to have a head full of extensive vocabulary, however, this left me with a dilemma. I enjoy learning anything new, words included, but I have no desire to become the person who writes in language that has people reaching for their dictionaries. It’s my job to make the inaccessible accessible, and I want all of my work, my thesis included, to be accessible. I want my mum to be able to read it when I finish (no offence, mum).

I guess I’d better get on with some writing then; I’m sure my mum is getting bored waiting for me to finish. I’ve been too busy recently with eating lunch, running and trying to address my work-life balance, and I’ve done no writing over the last few weeks as a result. I have done the reading I said I would do though, and I’m definitely back on a better track. This week, I plan to read another few articles, run another few miles, and eat a few more sandwiches. Hopefully, this time next week, I’ll be all set to write another few words. No big words though, not unless I find a really good one.

And, in case you’re wondering, it’s pronounced fi-donderer (like the fi in finger, not the fi in Fiji).

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