Why Shashi Tharoor’s ‘Word of the Week’ is Not a Good Idea

In April 2019, when the Hindustan Times created a weekly column that predominantly featured ‘words of the week’ from Shashi Tharoor. The word of the week is basically a means to expand one’s vocabulary – which the name suggests.

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The Short Description of Shashi Tharoor

He is a member of the Parliament and was a former minister in India’s cabinet of ministers. This is not where his distinctions end, he has also been known to be a prolific writer, a scholar and is a published author of a plethora of best-selling books. Apart from his political ventures in the Indian hemisphere, he was also a participating member serving under the UN (United Nations). His rival who he was second to during the selection process of becoming the UN Secretary-General was Ban Ki-Moon. Shashi Tharoor has been known to be an extremely articulate speaker in English. He is especially renowned for his extensive knowledge and commands over the English language; how he inserts difficult and uncommon words into everyday conversations. To give you an inkling as to what is meant by “difficult and uncommon” words, find below a list containing all the words written by Shashi Tharoor found in the ‘Word of the Week’.

Table 1.1 Table 1.2
Defenestrate Claque
Panglossian Cwtch
Epistemophilia Epicaricacy
Lethologica Juggernaut
Phobia Valetudinarian
Lunacy Pistanthrophobia
Kakistocracy Aptagram
Contronym Prepone
Zealot Paracosm
Luddite Oxymoron
Satyagraha Eponym
Farrago Opismath
Authorism Eponym

Is the Word of the Week Useful To People?

As human ingenuity keeps increasing, so must our vocabulary in order to keep up with it. However, what is the point of amassing knowledge and words that are not applicable to this increasingly competitive world? That is the fundamental question that is being raised because of Shashi Tharoor’s words of the week.

Words that help us, humans, better communicate what we want are words that are very important in a world ruled by social constructs. Then of course, you learn a few words just to look good in front of people or to write a very complex-looking research paper. Words that are not understood by most people are words that may not be that effective. Sure, you could explain very simple/complex concepts in a more astute fashion, however that is not going to be an actual reflection of your intelligence.

In the case of Shashi Tharoor’s words of the week, there seems to be an inherent complexity associated with certain words that he has written to expand our vocabulary. Most of the words, apart from ones like prepone and zealot, are words whose definitions themselves are complex enough to not be understood by the layman – someone who just wants to learn new words that will help him communicate better. Sometimes, when a word is too complex in its definition itself, it is easier and more efficient to not learn it and instead learn a word that is simpler and makes it easier for you to enunciate what is on your mind.

More than these words being hard to read and understand without scratching your head, they will lead pre-teens and teenagers to have misconstrued notions of what words are appropriate for a sentence and what is not. Keeping the before said in mind, complexities of the English language should at least be kept to the degree where it actually manages to help a person enhance their unique way of expressing themselves.

Although Shashi Tharoor’s work is amazing and his articulation skills are beyond par, the choice of words that appear in his ‘words of the week’ maybe sometimes too complex for some people.

How Common Is the Use of These Words

As one can gauge from the above sections, the words that Shashi Tharoor is providing may not be as useful to the layman as it may be for a vocabulary aficionado.

To give you a more accurate representation of the use of the words given in the tables, we will be determining the common, or uncommon, use of Shashi Tharoor’s prescribed words of the week by using Google Search and find the results that follow for each word. After quick results, the overall number of times a word was used ranged between 27,000,000 to 2,000 (Aptagram being the word that is rarely used in the modern English language context).

Furthermore, the use of words that people themselves cannot understand will lead to erroneous speaking and writing skills. One must know and wholly understand the definition of a word to properly use it to communicate.

Now how can one do that when they try to learn words that they might not even need themselves? What if someone comes across one of these words of the week and then decides to employ the use of one or two of the words given, even though he doesn’t understand it due to the intrinsic complex nature they consist of?

These types of questions present themselves when one analyzes the actual weightage of knowing and using such words, especially words like “Epicaricay” and “Cwth”, the latter of which I don’t even think I can pronounce.

Evidence Supporting Issue with the Words of The Week

Words of the week that were written by Shashi Tharoor were evidenced to be uncommonly used by way of testing them on Microsoft Word (MW). Usually, on MW, words that do not exist in any text or words that are rarely used in an everyday context, have a red line undermarking the word or phrase containing the word. In the words of the week that were written by Shashi Tharoor, a sizable chunk of 50% or more, was underlined by a red wavy line – indicative that more than half of the list of words are useless in the common layman’s vocabulary. What is the point of reading and forcing yourself to remember a list of words that are complex for you to understand, thus being too complicated for you to use when you talk to people?


In conclusion, the Words of the Week by Shashi Tharoor are a precursor to erroneous usage of words. While they might be impressive in their own merit in terms of being complex technical terminology, it still does not mean that they are words that will be useful to someone who might never even understand the word fully. Maybe the average person is someone who needs to use complex words only when they have to explain something in a way that shortens the number of words they need to use. These are the problems that particularly stand out when reading the list of words.

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