I learned a new word today: efflorescence.
I read it in the following sentence: “The last fifteen years have seen a great efflorescence of research and advocacy relating to the collateral consequences of criminal convictions in the United States.”*
According to Wikipedia, efflorescence means, “the migration of a salt to the surface of a porous material, where it forms a coating.” Which literally makes no sense in the context of the above sentence.
Dictionary.com says more satisfyingly, but no less unhelpfully: “the state or a period of flowering.”
And finally, Merriam-Webster defines it as: “the action or process of developing and unfolding as if coming into flower.”
After finding the third definition, I went: “Oh! What a great word to use there!”
But I’m of two minds about the author’s use of the word overall. On the one hand, I like finding new words and I think an author does me a service by introducing me to new ones, particularly if the context makes sense. On the other hand, efflorescence seems a very fancy word where something simpler (and thus more legible) might do. Like burgeoning or expansion. But perhaps those are the expected terms and the use of something like efflorescence wakes the brain from complacency.
What are your thoughts? Is it good writing or not in this context? And does it matter that I had to look in three places to find a proper definition?
*Alec C. Ewald, Barbers, Caregivers, and the “Disciplinary Subject”: Occupational Licensure for People with Criminal Justice Backgrounds in the United States, 46 Fordham Urb. L.J. 719, 722 (2019). Actually a very fascinating article I do recommend checking out if you’re looking for some light reading 😉