Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sunday Musings: Expanding vocabulary

Hey, thanks for joining us for another Sunday Musings.

Since starting these postings I've discovered I have very limited greetings. I keep repeating the same words which end up making me sound insincere. Trust me, we're thrilled you join us every week...every posting.

However, and I know these read corny and maybe a tad lame, I am pretty stable at making lead-ins to each week's topic, like today's: Reading will expand your vocabulary; however, how do you maintain the memory of new words and pull them up to use?

Retaining new words hasn’t ever been a problem for me. Growing up my family tended to have a limited vocabulary. Many were only graduates of high school (if even, lol). So when I would ask my mother what a word meant, she always told me to look it up, because she didn’t know (ex: fag; is a bundle of sticks/kindling, gay; means happy). I got into the habit of reading the entire page along with the one I sought. Talk about interesting. In middle school I used words only my teachers knew (again, if even, lol), none of my friends knew them, making me sound smarter than I was. If they only knew the truth behind my finding the words. My brain/mind has an interesting relationship with words. I can forget things, but not words. My grandmother used to say words were my life. I’m going to say she was right.

MJ LABEFF, New Mainstream author

 I'm certain after reading hundreds of books over my lifetime I've come upon new words that have intrigued me, but I'm not sure those words have expanded my vocabulary. Dean Koontz is a wordsmith, and I recall having to grab a dictionary while reading a couple of his novels. You'd think those words would've stuck in the corner of my mind but no such luck. It appears that every book I write comes from my vocabulary. I’m more comfortable writing in my own voice. If I come across a familiar word but don’t use it in my own daily conversations or thoughts why would I include it in my writing? The only way I see this happening is if a character called for it. I am curious if other writers read and then store words for a later use in their writing.

Unless a word is in my active vocabulary, I tend to have to check spelling and exact meaning in a dictionary. My favourite book is my Thesaurus, invaluable when I want to find an alternative word.

When I find a new word, I make a note of it in the notebook I carry round or if that's not handy, on my phone. I have a list of interesting words, phrases and also names which I consult periodically. The problem is remembering all the words on the list and remembering that I have the perfect word for a particular situation!

I often encounter previously unknown words and terminology and usually file them away in my mind.  I don't purposely memorize them and certainly don't try to force them into a story, but I will recall them when the need for one of them arises in the future.  This is frequently an immediate future, because a lot of my reading of new material comes as part of specific research.  When the call for the word or phrase appears, I will either remember it accurately or will nearly certainly remember where I saw it, even to the precise page or section of the source volume.  It's a handy trait I seem always to have had and for which I am grateful.

I usually have to end up looking for them in a dictionary, and the repetition of seeing them on the page and not knowing what they mean imprint them on my mind. For example, I wasn't sure what "inane" meant (it means "foolish" or "stupid"), or "sagacious" (it means "intelligent").

I have an expansive vocabulary as a base, so when I do come across an unfamiliar word (thanks, Rex Stout) I'll either just remember it, or consider the odds I'll ever use it to be so slight that it just fades from memory.

Rhetoric also plays a part, however. While Nero Wolfe would use a word like "gibbosity," None of my characters would. Well, maybe Richard. The majority of mine would use the less PC term "hunchback," or the condition would be described, but not named.

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at

1 comment:

Gary White said...

Any idea of good/trustful book publishing agencies?