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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Brushing up (and down) on Vocabulary

I got a new dictionary today. Vocabulary and Etymology (not to be confused by Entomology, or the study of insects) have always intrigued me. It never fails to amaze me how many words completely escape my knowledge. In any given day, the Wall Street Journal will give me at least five reasons to consult a dictionary. (My old college dictionary has failed me a few times, so I’m excited to test my new one.)

In attempt to expand my limited word usage, I subscribe to Anu Garg's “Word-A-Day” blog. This past week’s postings included words that were not only interesting, but fun to pronounce. I’ve been trying to incorporate the words into my own personal lexicon.

“Doug, my Dear, how can you be so contumacious about listening to Coldplay’s new album? I thought we were coevals and you disparage them to the point of making me lachrymose,” I say in the peripatetic conversation as he obstreperously criticizes the most outstanding artist to frequent our airwaves since U2.

Right. Like that conversation really happened. Here’s a more realistic depiction.

“Let’s listen to Coldplay.”

“Coldplay sucks.”

“I think they’re awesome. Their music is so interesting to me.”

“Not to me. Turn it.”

I sigh.

Do any of you ever get caught on using a vocabulary word because you don’t want to sound self-important? (I originally used the word 'erudite' for 'self-important'.) My daughter has been questioning me on simple vocabulary words lately – the same girl who has scored 99 in vocabulary on her Iowa Basic Skills Test for the past two years.

“Are you trying to sound dumb, Alex?”

The astonished look on her face gave her away – I had nailed it. (I confessed that I, too, have been in her shoes.) So, the next time she asks me the definition of something as simple as “gullible,” she will be asked to provide me with three obscure synonyms for the word.

Oh, Alex! It’s the curse of having a geek for a mother. But I simply won't allow her expanded vocabulary be the curse of her own self.

My smart little girl...

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