Thursday, September 29, 2016

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. 

He cites an example. Not too long ago, he spent an afternoon in the Hall of Minerals and Gems at the American Museum of Natural History. He noticed two Cub Scouts working their way from cabinet to cabinet looking at the specimens, and he heard one of them say to the other, “Look here, Pete. Look at the orthoclase.”

“How many adults,” he asks, “have ever heard the word orthoclase? Very few. Yet orthoclase is as common a word to a rock and mineral collector, even a young one, as blasphemy is to a theologian.”

Similarly, how many adults will recognize the words “florin,” “rupee,” “piaster,” “dinar,” “sen,” and “pfennig”? You probably know some of them. But there are pre-adolescent coin collectors who know all of them, for each word is the denomination of a foreign coin: “florin” from Great Britain and the Netherlands, “rupee” from India, “piaster” from Turkey and other countries, “dinar” from Iraq, “sen” from Japan, and “pfennig” from Germany.
These examples could be multiplied endlessly, which leads inevitably to this conclusion: the greater your range of interests and activities and interests, the greater your vocabulary. Now, as Maxwell Numberg and Morris Bosenblum have stressed in their Superb book, How to Build a Better Vocabulary (available in paperback form), not all the words you learn will be “technical” ones-as the above illustrations unquestionably are.

Many will be words that can be used in everyday conversation. A sports fan, for instance, will come across such words as “debacle,” “juggernaut,” “indomitable,” “stymie,” and “redoubtable” just by reading the sports section of his daily newspaper. He can use these the rest of his life.

Yes, you can increase your vocabulary by increasing the range of your interests, activities, and experiences. If you do not have a hobby, you should certainly choose one. It will not only make you a more interesting person, it will aid your vocabulary at the same time. Moreover, it doesn’t make much difference what your hobby is-hunting, fishing, boating, golf, photography, antiques, stamps, coins, minerals, painting, model building, old books, phonograph records-any of these will help you widen the scope of your experiences, meet new people, and add some useful words to your vocabulary.

There is no need to belabor the point. The lesson is clear. By leading a fuller life you can acquire a richer vocabulary-and have a lot of fun in the process! 

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