Friday, September 30, 2016

Vocabulary Quizzes For Fun and Profit

The best way to acquire new words is the easiest and most natural way-by wide reading, new experiences, and stimulating conversation. But the natural way is not the only way; there are a number of somewhat artificial means for improving your vocabulary, which, properly used, can be quite helpful. You are familiar with most of them. They include printed quizzes, word games, dictionary study, and books on vocabulary building. These are worth exploring, although anyone who puts his whole trust in such devices is doomed to disappointment.

The power of ‘meretricious’

I once heard an old lady, a native of upstate New York, describing her recent trip to California. When asked what she thought of the people in the Los Angeles area, she replied, “Oh, I suppose they’re not much different from us in the East; but in a way they do seem, well, a little meretricious.” 

Don’t Be Afraid To Say ”Lugubrious”

Once you have acquired a new word, you must not be afraid to use it. Don’t be afraid to say “lugubrious.” Don’t be afraid to say “jejune.” Don’t be afraid to say “anthropomorphic.” In fact, don’t be afraid to say any word-if you know what it means and if it fits the situation. For unless you say it, you will forget it.

The Key To 100,000 Words (Part 2)

For days the teacher trembled lest some parent come storming into the school asking what in the devil was being taught teenagers nowadays. It never happened. The teacher herself is now persuaded that there was probably no more powerful way to teach these prefixes than to combine them with the sanguinary root “-cide.” Months later, she reports, most of the students in the class had a pretty good idea of the meanings of such words as "‘matriarchy,” “patrimony,” “fraternal,” and “uxorial”-not easy words, you will admit, for eighth graders who have not yet studied Latin. Fortunately, the students had been given the keys to unlock their meanings. 

The Key to 100,000 Words (Part 1)

Prefixes, roots, and suffixes are the raw material of the English language. They are the stuff of which words are made. A knowledge of prefixes, roots, and suffixes allows any reasonably intelligent person to make a stab at defining a word like “antidisestablishmentarianism” in spite of its formidable appearance, or to define a word like “antimalarial” without a moment’s hesitation. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Words And Their Pedigree

One of the more unusual ways to increase your vocabulary, and acquire a liberal education, too, is to become interested in the origins of words. (Doing this can also help make you a lively conversationalist.) 

Conversation As a Vocabulary Builder

One obvious way to increase the range of your experiences and the extent of your vocabulary is to meet new, interesting, and intelligent people. As Longfellow once said, “A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years’ study of books.” It pays to become acquainted with people whose conversations can broaden your horizons, add zest to your life, and introduce you to new worlds of words.

Broaden The Range of Your Experiences

One of my close friends is a man of many interests. He is a stamp and coin collector, an amateur minerologist, a baseball and football fan, and a student of local history. He is convinced that these activities are powerful, painless vocabulary builders. 

Reading-The Sine Qua Non (Part 2)

If you are a Mencken reader, you are pretty sure to have a good idea of what they mean whether you have ever looked them up in a dictionary or not. You have acquired the words by exposure to them in print, by seeing them used in context, often with built-in definitions, and you have added them to your recognition Vocabulary. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Reading-The Sine Qua Non (Part 1)

Much of your present vocabulary owes its existence to your past reading. Now, it is perfectly true that you learned your first few thousand words not by reading but by listening, pointing, asking questions, and repeating answers. You acquired this vocabulary mostly from your parents and older brothers and sisters. The words you learned were primarily concrete ones; “mother,” “baby,” “shoe,” “dog.”

Increasing Your Stockpile of Words

An average 14-year-old child has a vocabulary of about 10,000 words, an average high school graduate 15,000, and an average college graduate between 20,000 and 30,000. Formal schooling is a potent vocabulary builder. The educational process forces students to learn unfamiliar words. New ideas requires new terminology, and textbooks become progressively “harder.”

Practical Ways To Build Your Vocabulary

If a psychologist were asked to estimate your chances for success, what would he first want to know about you?  

Your family background? Your educational record? Your personality traits? No. The first thing he would want to know is the extent of our vocabulary.