I suspect he had a specific reason for using it and it's not some latent patriarchalism.
Maybe. It's just not wise to unnecessarily ostracize a large demographic of your listeners if you're trying to win people over. It just goes to show how much heterosexist and sexist language is still widely accepted in the mainstream. I'm trying to picture him saying the president should act more white, and I imagine that would not go over well. That's not to say that standard English is by any means friendly to all races--I'd argue quite the opposite, but some
overt references are more taboo than others.
As for your question, I'm not sure what you mean by intellectual,
are you referring to a measure of intelligence or the type of people who like to drink coffee and talk about Proust? Without giving a direct answer to what is "more intellectual," here are my thoughts on the appropriateness of ten-cent words:
Vernacular is largely driven by socioeconomic class. What language to use is environmental. If you're at a scholarly conference, you're expected to use a more Latinate and elevated language (since Latin was originally the language of higher speculation, it was easier for the monks to bring Latin into English as loanwords than try to calque in
or newly coin words like transubstantiation
). Much of this Latin was used only in writing, so only the upper classes were using this language. Obviously that's changed with the spread of literacy, but it's largely still in effect today: the language used by the well-read is different from the language(s) used on the street.
Where I see a problem is with the implication that scholarly language is better
or is a sign that the speaker is somehow inherently smarter than the person next to him/her. Scholarly English is Standard English on crack: it assumes authority and thensome. The dominant culture of monolingual English speakers isn't respectful to the many other forms of English that exist: rural English, Black English Vernacular, Spanish-English hybrids, etc. Our society demands that speakers be able to code-switch in order to fit the environment: I'd be laughed at if I finished a sentence with a preposition in one of my graduate seminars, I'd also be laughed at if I said to my virtually illiterate aunt: "For whom is this letter intended?"
I don't see anything wrong with using language your audience understands: that's not "dumbing down," it's insuring your points are understood. For example, the language I have used in this response is aimed at an educated and well-read engineer (that's you--you're an engineer, right?). I avoided much of the linguistic jargon I may have used if I were talking to one of my colleagues, but I didn't omit it entirely. Not knowing your familiarity with the material, I supplied a definition for calque
(taking a chance of offending you), but left code-switch
alone, since you can probably understand what I mean with context alone.
I think "big" words are fine if used with respect. The reason most of them exist is to give a sharper degree of meaning, which is sometimes necessary. Using them unnecessarily and in the wrong environment does tend to make the speaker sound pompous, and can be considered quite rude. What's the point of flapping your jaw if no one understands you?
I don't really watch enough Olbermann to comment on his language use. Perhaps he's targeting a well-educated demographic, perhaps he's trying to gain authority. If his language is becoming overly ornamental, I suspect he'll be missing out on many viewers who might otherwise be sympathetic to his ideas.