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Monday, January 26, 2015

Week 4 Collect Good Words

Collect Good Words
by Tamara

Can I say how happy I am to get to post about Week 4? 
Or should I say giddy? 
What about honored or privileged? What if instead of grateful, I said I felt gratified?

See what a difference a word makes? 

Some women collect shoes, purses, lipsticks. Me? I have words stashed in all sorts of places. If I glance directly to my left there are fifteen sticky note cards on my wall with--you guessed it--words and their definitions.
Like the word polemic: a noun meaning 'passionate argument, strongly worded, often controversial against someone or something.' Think about it, have you ever been swayed by a passionate argument that was weakly worded?
Under my desk (for the moment) is a binder with more words and their definitions. Yes, I've heard of dictionaries and I own a few, but this binder is where I put words I find in the books I read. If I come across a word I haven't seen before I look it up, print it out and voila--it goes in the binder. 
Latest entry: caterwaul. A verb meaning to utter long wailing cries, as cats in rutting time. From the book "Handling the Truth" by Beth Kephart. Found in the sentence,"If you want to write memoir, you need to set caterwauling narcissism to the side." (See, I knew I had some narcissism, but now I know what to call the sound it makes when it's trying to get all the attention.)
We need good words, strong words, words that convey our meaning efficiently, precisely. 

And how will we acquire these words?

Mr. Wilbers gives six ideas on how to do this. I'll mention two.

As described in the aforementioned example, reading is a great way to find new and useful words. Of course, if you come across a word you don't know, you will need to look it up and devise a way to remember it. Mr. Wilbers says there are '500,000 words available to us in the English language' and the average vocabulary of the non-reader is about '10,000 to 20,000' while the vocabulary of the reader can boast '20,000 to 40,000.' 1

Other good instructions he gives on this is how to move words from your comprehensive vocabulary to your expressive vocabulary. "...[Y]ou need to know three things about [the word]: how to define, pronounce, and spell it." 2

So say the new word out loud, listen to it being said, write it down with the definition in a book, on a card, anywhere. 

One of the exercises for the week includes a progressive vocabulary self-test to determine if you have a limited or expansive vocabulary. Well, having prided myself all these years on being a word collector, I had a little too much, shall we say, aplomb. As I worked my way through the sentences, I discovered words I'd seen before, but couldn't easily recall to use in the exercise. 
Time to step up my word collecting and usage. 
Perhaps by not being so complacent.

1. Mastering the Craft of Writing, page 20
2. Mastering the Craft of Writing, page 21

Leave a comment with a new word you found this week from your reading or elsewhere.

Or share a word collecting system that has worked for you.

PEGGY: I love words too. I have a 3x5 spiral bound notebook where I keep words I hear or read that I don't know. I find that if I can find ways to use the words, it helps me remember them. Some of my words: expurgate (to amend by removing words that are deemed objectionable); specious (superficially plausible but actually wrong); obliquity (intellectual deviousness, immorality; degree of incline; deliberate evasiveness in speech or writing; obscure statement).

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