Book Review: The Words You Should Know to Sound Smart – 1200 Essential Words Every Sophisticated Person Should Be Able to Use (Robert W. Bly)

Book Review: The Words You Should Know to Sound Smart – 1200 Essential Words Every Sophisticated Person Should Be Able to Use (Robert W. Bly)

The Words You Should Know To Sound Smart by Robert W. Bly

I Be Smart One Day

We all want to sound smart don’t we? Use the best words (the bigliest words? the hugest words?). We all want to sound sophisticated, intelligent, coiffed, suave, debonair, etc….. but how often do we actually come off that way? Perhaps a book like this could help us and make us seem that way; if not actually be smarter – seem smarter. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Well… this definitely won’t do that. Spoiler alert. Sorry.

Different Purposes

There is definitely a weird ‘what is the purpose’ of this book vibe to it. Is it meant to help educate in the sense of actually giving you a better vocabulary? Is it meant to be ‘funny’ or ‘tongue in cheek’? Is it even meant to be worth the merit of the paper its printed on? Who knows…..

When I picked it up, I was shopping at Barnes and Nobles with my twelve year old daughter who pointed out that it was bargain-binned for 4$, and she says I have a good vocabulary – why not increase it. So, it was completely a ‘whim’ buy and pseudo-peer-pressure buy from my daughter.

The back blurb reads:

“So you want to debate philosophical precepts with the intelligentsia? Wax poetic with the literati? Lock academic horns with the clerisy?

You can do all that – and be the life of the every highbrow cocktail party – with this most compendious of voluminous volumes. Master this discerning list of 1,200 deliciously obscure terms and you’ll be tossing around bon mots with the best of the portentous artistes and aesthetes – not to mention impressing the perfervid hoi polloi – in no time!”

Back cover blurb

Whew…. well, there’s a word salad that is tongue in cheek and an attempt to make the book actually sound worthwhile when its completely not.

Now, here’s the GoodReads blurb (and yes, all spelling and grammar errors are on the site, I just copied and pasted):

This book is a tongue-in-cheek guide to words that any well-educated, witty person should be able to drop into cocktail conversation. The reader is encouraged to toss off words such as ?disestablishmentarianism, ? ?descant, ? and ?autodidactic? ?words that will make the user sound learned, intellectual, and wise. For those who want to improve the quality and sophistication of their speech and writing, this is the book to keep on the nightstan

GoodReads Blurb

So which is it? An attempt to make you legitimately have a better comprehension and vocabulary? Or a tongue in cheek satire / poke at the rich and hoity-toity? We may never know….


So… is it any good? Firstly, I flat out nearly gave up on it numerous times. Not so much about the word selection – yes I think I have a halfway decent vocabulary, and knew most of the words (80% at least) and their meanings, but, the example sentences are atrocious and the absolute worst.

I think there is a lot of “attempt” at humor with these sentences. Every single one aimed at the 1%’ers of the world, and the way they can use the words. But, every single sentence reads the same, and its just so obnoxious, pretentious, and flat out boring, that it becomes repetitive and nauseating reading it.

Couple this with the fact that they use words that are in this book to explain other words. That’s just poor form, especially if you read the book alphabetically (since its grouped by letter, starting at A and working your way to Z), don’t be using “noveu rich” and other terms over and over and over in various sentences when you’re still in the C’s and D’s.

On top of this, some of the sentences are used are poorly constructed and just horrible sentence structure. Using the negation of the word to figure out the meaning of the word and giving an example, is just abysmally stupid.

An example of a word, that I had to pick out for this review, because it irked me so much when originally reading it:

“Euphony (YOU-fone-ee) noun

The habit of changing the pronunciation of words or the wording of phrases so they are pleasing to the ear and roll off the tongue with greater ease.

In finishing school, Alsace learned the art of EUPHONY, and she has parlayed that into a hobby of earning roles in television commercials.

Page 51

What does this even mean? How do you read that sentence and immediately go — “Ahhh, I see, EUPHONY means the pronunciation of words and making it pleasing to the ear…” I can get where the sentence works as it reads, and it is used correctly in that sentence, but as an explanation and way to use it… it just doesn’t work and rings so horrible.

And this might not even be one of the most egregious examples.


I was willing to give the book a pass until I read the author blurb at the end, and thats when it sank from a 2 or 2.5 star review, immediately down to a 1 or even possibly a .5 star review.

And all it needed was one sentence about the author:

“Robert W. Bly is a professional writer and self made millionaire.”

Author Bio – Back Inside Jacket

Either that is also tongue in cheek, or its just dreck and makes me hate this all the even more. Either way, it fails, and just makes the whole enterprise even more hollow and pointless.

My GoodReads Rating: *
Global GoodReads Rating: 3.81 (as of October 17th, 2021)
My LibraryThing Rating: .5

Some other Book Reviews:

-B. Kline

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