LEARNING NEW WORDS might not appeal to everyone, but it’s worth my time to attempt to convince you it should.
• New words beget more words, which beget more knowledge. Simply: When you learn a new word, you’re likely to find another new word or, at least, become curious about a new concept. You’re likely to learn. And learning, really, is the key to it all. I mean the big picture It All.
• Knowing more — words, concepts — likely helps you to better understand others or to be understood yourself. Imagine hearing from someone who uses words you don’t know — or vice versa. Clearly, that strains the relationship and could even be dangerous. Think of health care and describing a physical symptom.
• Sometimes there’s sheer impressive factor in learning and using new words. My 7-year-old daughter recently impressed someone when she used the word “dubious” in a conversation. I’m dubious she used it correctly, but still. Really, there are days I’m sure it’s my use of the words “visceral” or “peripheral” that convinces someone I’m smarter than I look.
ONCE YOU HAVE some new words in your vocabulary, make sure to use them. Like any new tool or toy, it takes some time to learn about them and to use them correctly.
You can always just tell someone, “Hey, I learned a new word. It’s ‘filipendulous.’ Wanna know what it means?” If your friendship with this someone is filipendulous, well, this might finally do it in.
Or you can find ways to use your new words in everyday conversation, like when you’re having coffee and chatting about “Whole Family.” To wit, “That Stephanie Price. She seems like she has such sprezzatura. What do you think?” “Sprezzatura” sounds like a fancy Italian dish to me, something that should include tiny pasta and basil, maybe. You’ll have to look it up. I do not have it.
Once you master basic uses, you can graduate to creative uses of your new words, something we writers call “poetic license,” relishing the freedom to play with words we’ve loved a long time.
I enjoy a conservative measure of poetic license once in a while. I am not stellar at geometry, but I love the words “tangent” and “adjacent” when I’m talking or writing about much more than math and shapes. You can call a person’s position, argument or opinion “anemic” or a teeny person “colossal” even.
Before you get to the poetic license stage, though, make sure of one thing: Know what your new words mean and use them correctly. There are few things more embarrassing than realizing you misunderstood what a word meant and used it wrongly more than once.
Who knew the “colon” is your intestine, not part of your nose? In the mid-1980s, when Ronald Reagan — may he rest peacefully — was diagnosed with a polyp in his “colon,” this fifth-grader did not. I thought he was having a piece of his nose removed and said so.
So dac-ing. (That’s slang for embarrassing.)
Make sure to get your words right — but get them. You’ll be gratified.
Goshen News columnist Stephanie Price is a wife, mother, teacher, childbirth educator, doula, midwife’s assistant and student nurse pursuing a minor in complementary health. Contact her at email@example.com, 269-641-7249 or on Facebook at the page “Whole Family Column by Steph Price.