Saturday, June 27, 2009

Words, words, words

If you've been following Seasonal Soundings for several years, maybe you remember "Wednesday Words." (Some posts of WWs are here, here, here, and here.) Those weekly vocabulary posts were from the time I stayed home all day and had time for fun things. Back then, I kept new words that crossed my path on a 5 x 7 colored index card.

Since then, I've made sloppy attempts to keep new word lists from the little bit of reading I still manage to do before the eyelids close. This summer, I've been more earnest about keeping a list. Some of the words I've heard before and can repeat easily, but do not actually know what they mean. Others, I haven't the foggiest idea. All of them, though, I've looked up and written down.

You know, as I read through this list, I realize how few words that make it on my list ever actually make it into my speaking vocabulary. And I need to change that, so I've put an asterisk beside the ones I hope to move into my conversation.

From teaching vocabulary this past year, I realize what an advantage my students have now. They are actually learning vocabulary with short one or two word definitions. If I call out the word, they can shout back the definition immediately. Now I never had that advantage. I was never taught vocabulary. Period. I was never taught new words. Ever. I did not grow up hearing "big" words. I was not encouraged to use a dictionary. And I was not a reader. Being a reader can overcome many vocabulary insufficiencies. So, I do not have that store of words to pull from. Most of the more erudite, or scholarly, words I know now, I've learned in my adult life. What an advantage my students will have in their lives with a rich vocabulary. [By the way, the word history for erudite is quite interesting and one I plan to share with my students this year. Read it here--scroll down to the highlighted box.]

Another thing that I've noticed about my students and vocabulary is when I introduce a list, I always have a couple of words that "I really love to say" or "I love how this word feels in my mouth." Then when test time comes, the last question on the test is "Which word is your favorite word in this list?" And guess what most of the answers are? The very words I talked about loving to say! You, see, teachers do influence students. And often, they don't even realize it.

My summer list so far includes

bathos - triteness, sentimentalism

*spurious - false

*strident - harsh, grating

huckster - peddler

geomancy - the art of divining the future by interpreting the patterns made by handfuls of scattered earth

*pugnacious - quarrelsome (I knew this word so I'm not sure why I wrote it down again.)

prosaic - dull, commonplace

vitriolic - caustic

fillip - a stimulus

tambour - cylindrical construction supporting a dome

provenance - source, origin

*inimitable - unmatched

*sedulous - diligent

extirpation - to destroy completely

*perspicacious - having keen judgment; discerning

charnel (house) - building or place where bone or corpses are deposited

cognoscenti - a person who has expert knowledge in a particular subject

What are your new words this summer?
This week?


Anonymous said...

Strident -- I use it all the time. First began using it as a practicing attorney after my boss told me I shouldn't be too strident in my hearings. I had to look it up. Many of his words made it into my working vocabulary.

Love reading your blog, Janie!

Lisa -- Floridalisa from WTM

Given all things said...

Your strident hucksterism in promoting this prosaic word list smacks of geomancy. I do not say this to be pugnacious or vitriolic; you are seduluous and inimitable in your quest to become the cognoscenti of educational culture....but a prosaic list will not become a fillip unless the provenance of each word is understood. I call for the extirpation of this list and for its creator to dwell in a charnel with a tambour!

JSD said...

Okay, Kathy, I'm going to have to pull out my list and translate!

That was good!

Given all things said...

It would be bathotic to cry over the misspelling of 'sedulous.' Sorry about that.