When is it O.K. to use an unfamiliar word? When is it not O.K.? - is endlessly argued, yet even so, sometimes, notwithstanding the debates' endlessness, fresh insights and original formulations are coined. One of these, I think, was Dwight Macdonald's distinction, made in his marvelous survey of Webster's Third for The New Yorker (March 10, 1962), between unusual words (O.K.) and words ''that belong in the zoo sections of the dictionary'' (not O.K.). I should think most people would agree, for instance, that arachibutyrophobia would be an example of the latter (the word defines the fear of peanut butter's sticking to the roof of your mouth). James Jackson Kilpatrick, in his book ''The Writer's Art,'' takes a position on the dogmatic side against the use of unfamiliar words and cites me, however kindly, as a prodigious offender (the Lord delivered Kilpo into my hands, because his proscriptive passage against long & unusual words contained four long & unusual words). Mr. Kilpatrick likes to quote Westbrook Pegler, who denounced the use of what he called ''out of town words.''The tough — and subjective — question is: Which words are too annoyingly strange to use?
And was it eristic for Schwartz to use "eristic"?
''ERISTIC: (i ris/ tik) adj [ Gr. eristikos, d. erizein, to strive, dispute d. eris, strife ] of or provoking controversy, or given to sophistical argument and specious reasoning.''If it was eristic to use "eristic," did Schwartz mean to offer word mavens a little inside joke, or — more amusingly — did he mean to send a secret signal to Buckley fans?