These days almost everyone seems to think that bigger — or perhaps fancier — words mean better writing. Hence nothing is long anymore. It’s got to be lengthy. And whatever happened to plain-Jane many? Gone the way of the dodo bird. Now we have multiple this and multiple that. Given this penchant for supposedly up-market words, I guess it was inevitable that people would glom onto utilize in a big way. The word use seems to have come down with the plague, and no one will touch it. The funny thing is, use and utilize aren’t supposed to mean the same thing. Use means just what everyone thinks it does, but utilize has (or had) a subtle shading of meaning that enriched the language. The proper meaning of utilize is: “to use something for a purpose for which it was not originally intended.” Thus we could correctly say, “We utilized the tire to make a swing, but we used our hands to tie the rope.” Sadly, this distinction is all but gone, even to dictionary compilers. Still, there are multiple reasons to utilize plainer verbiage. A little of this type of writing goes a lengthy way.

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