Thursday, April 17, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Vocabulary

April 17, 2008

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This week's Booking Through Thursday asks:

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?

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response at the link above to BTT.


To answer this question, I'll have to tell a story from the Year I Homeschooled Myself:

So about six weeks into my six-month stay in Germany during junior year of high school (my father was a Fulbright Scholar), I finished all the work that had been assigned to me for the year. The next 5 months I/we did three things extensively: traveled, shopped, and read. We lived near an army base in Giessen, W. Germany (which it was called back then, remember?), and for some reason they let us use the base library (perhaps because my father was a veteran?). We all (my mother, father, and I) checked out stacks of books each week.

Well, being finished with my public school work for the year, I had to come up with my own educational plan, and part of this involved Vocabulary. I had a notebook. I had books. And I had words that I didn't know. So I began my Vocabulary Study, which involved keeping a notebook by my side while I read, writing down all words I didn't know, and then writing the definition. Well, and then I also, of course, needed to use those words in my everyday speech in order to truly understand them, right?

That worked fine with my parents, who could appreciate and share my love of words. But that doesn't work so well when you are writing letters to your friends back home in the States, who are trapped in their little world of steel lockers, fluorescent lights, and football games while you are out visiting the Louvre. I distinctly remember one "friend," Anne, giving me the news by airmail (gleefully, I might add), that my boyfriend-before-I-left had asked some other girl to the fall dance, and they were madly in love. (She wasn't a very good friend ever, which makes me wonder: why was I writing to her?) Well, I can't remember the whole letter, but I do remember a line that included: "I don't care that they are going to the dance together. He is minutiae to me now."

Minutiae. It took me years to live that one down. Because of course, Anne had to share that letter with everyone in school. Even years later during a college Christmas break, when this boy and I sat talking, he asked me: "Did you really say I was minutiae?"

Is there a moral to this story? Probably not. But I do know that I tempered my vocabulary usage after that incident, always conscious of my audience. Fortunately I married a man who loves words, too, and so the big red dictionary is always accessible.

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