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?


Review: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Who hasn’t thought, however briefly, of leaving the rat race behind and getting closer to nature?

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer is a nonfiction account of Chris McCandless, aka Alexander Supertramp, a bright, 24 year old college graduate who gives all his money to charity and drops out of society on an Alaskan quest. Leaving his family and friends behind, he tells no one where he’s going. For 3 years, he wanders, having adventures and preparing for Alaska. He makes it to Alaska and walks into ‘the wild’ with 10 lbs of rice and not a whole lot more. He survives the Alaskan wilderness for 16 weeks before succumbing to starvation.

Was he stupid? No. Was he suicidal? I don’t think so. So how did this happen?

Jon Krakauer attempts to answer that through research and interviews with McCandless’ family and those who met him during his “lost” years. He makes comparisons to other “adventurers” and assorted nutballs who did similar things, with similarly disastrous results. It is a well written account of what may have happened to Chris during his odyssey. Granted, much of it is speculation, but Krakauer’s research is thorough and was made easier by the fact that McCandless left an indelible impression on those he met.

He felt things deeply, passionately. He stayed in written contact with people he met only briefly. People gave him rides, boots, jobs, sandwiches, advice. In one case, an elderly gentleman was so affected by him that he offered to adopt him. He brought out a protective instinct in acquaintances. Maybe they could see what he was.. a bright, caring, idealistic, naïve, ill-prepared wanderer who needed help.

I think my opinion of Into the Wild might have been different in my youth. Maybe I could have related better to Chris’ wanderlust. But, as a parent, I had so many mixed emotions. For almost 3 years, this kid (ok, sorry, Young Adult) wandered the western states without so much as a phone call or a postcard to his parents or sister. 3 years! I couldn’t help thinking, “Grow up! Call your mom!” This was not a kid from a broken home; he was not abused or neglected. He just selfishly wanted to be lost. And so he was..

For another book set in Alaska, check out my review of Winterdance: The Fine Madness or Running the Iditarod