Booking Through Thursday: Vocabulary

Vocabulary April 17, 2008


Filed under: Drafts — –Deb @ 1:11 am 

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Suggested by Nithin:

I’ve always wondered what other people do when they come across a word/phrase that they’ve never heard before. I mean, do they jot it down on paper so they can look it up later, or do they stop reading to look it up on the dictionary/google it or do they just continue reading and forget about the word?


Rarely will I stop to look up a word.  I can generally figure out what it means by the context.  I’m always a little surprised when I run across a word that is so unfamiliar that I can’t even guess what it means.  I get annoyed by an author who uses 5-star words in every other sentence.  Just say it already!!  Don’t try to impress me with your ginormous vocabulary!

A book I read last year was like that in certain places.  Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer was, for the most part, an easy read.  I read it for my book club.  One sentence that I marked to read aloud at our meeting had 3 words that, not only did I not know them, I HAD NEVER EVEN SEEM THEM BEFORE.  I’ll write it here and you can guess which words I’m referring to:

“He liked the community’s stasis, it’s plebeian virtues and unassuming mien.”  pg. 18

Alrighty, then!  Obviously, Krakauer was showing off his big brain.  But I’d rather just read and not have to stumble on words that are rarely used in everyday language, not once, twice, but THREE TIMES in one sentence.  

My 10 year old generally asks me when she comes across a word she doesn’t know.  I usually tell her, “Look it up!” when we’re home, but the other day she asked me the meaning of a word while in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.  We were both reading our books.  She’d just started The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patton, a Newberry Award winner, 5 minutes before, when she loudly asked, “Mom, what does ‘scrotum’ mean?” 6 sets of eyeballs whipped around to look at us as I stammered, “Ummm, why do you want to know?”  “Because it’s right here in my book.”  My response:  “Let me see that book!”  When I explained what it was, she said, “I don’t think I want to read this book anymore!”

How do you handle it when you come across an unfamiliar word?


14 Responses

  1. hahaha. i am still laughing while typing this. anyway, i used to keep a tickler beside me whenever i read. but oh boy, what happened every time i read was that i wrote down all the words i came across to, even if i already knew the words. it seemed like i was preparing vocabulary tests for a bunch of people with different vocabulary levels.

    so i stopped that practice. what i do now is remember the word. if i don’t get the meaning behind context clues, then i will look for the word at 🙂

  2. That is brilliant – LOL.

    The sentence you quoted is unbelievable. It reminded me of my school days when I used to replace common words using the thesaurus.

    I always think short everyday words are better, it’s the way the author arranges them that counts!

  3. Do you remember that We Need To Talk About Kevin was kinda like that: lots of big words! I think that was part of what made her writing pretentious.

    Have a great day, Lisa!

  4. simple writing is better. look at hemingway. he’s a literary giant.

  5. Hi guys, thanks for the comments.

    Angus, good for you! I should be better about looking things up. Thanks for stopping by.

    Alix, LOL!! I used to do that with the thesaurus, too! Now I find my daughter doing that! Thanks for coming by my blog. I look forward to checking yours out, too.

    Trish, you’re right, “Kevin” was that way. It did make me feel her writing was pretentious, and it put me off enough to not really want to read her new book, The Post Birthday World. Hope you have a great day, too!

    Angus, good point about Hemingway.

  6. Wonderful response! It made me chuckle and also makes me a little glad I don’t have a ten-year-old to try to explain things to.

  7. I totally agree on the ginormous vocabulary!
    Still laughing too about your daughters lovely word find. That book got quite the hype when it first came out…makes you wonder what the author’s intentions were.

    Happy Reading!

  8. Hilarious sentence! I think I would have just rolled my eyes and moved on. 🙂

  9. Wow! I remember that sort of happening to me as a kid (maybe not as bad), while reading Sweet VAlley High. The word seduce was on the back cover and I asked my sister what it meant. My mom was in the car and said suddenly, “I don’t think you should read those books anymore.” Which naturally, just made me more curious. I was like in third grade or something.

  10. First of all, let me start by saying Yippee!! on the favorable test results for your daughter. I’m sure you were relieved and I’m glad it worked out for you. Now on to that ridiculous sentence! lol I don’t think I’ve ever had 3 words IN THE SAME SENTENCE that were so foreign to me EVER as those are! That’s just crazy! Usually when I run across a word I don’t know, I’ll jot it down with the intention of looking it up the next time online or when I take a break, but most times, I forget until its too late and I’m on to another book. Hmmmm, I think I’ll try harder next time . . .

  11. LOL! Usually I try to figure it out like you do, but if I’m still stumped, I’ll ask my hubby who’s a walking dictionary 🙂

  12. Hehe that’s a great story! =) I’m too lazy to look words up unless the dictionary is within reach or the word is crucial to the writing.

  13. I’m sure this comes as a total shock to you, but I’m a skipper, too. Unless it’s a word like widdershins. Admit it, you’d have looked that one up, too.

  14. uhm…what does scrotum mean?

    I never look things up, maybe I should know that one though!!

    Happy Thursday…soon friday!

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