Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Another Year of Interesting Words

Keeping track of words learned is becoming as much of a habit as keeping track of books read. Learning words definitely is result of reading books. I wonder if there is a cousin Good Reads tracker app for Good Words yet. No doubt there is. Or maybe the next dot com app millionaire is in the wings. There is a untapped market for word nerds.

My method is fairly Neanderthal. I’m basically in hunter gatherer mode as I set forth daily upon the plains of learning. That is a bit much, isn’t it? Actually, it’s more or less serendipity. When reading, and I come across words of interest, I type them into my phone in my notes under the file Vocabulary. And like the Guardians of the Galaxy Collector, I keep them there so I can view them.  Some are prettier than others, while some are rare and exotic, and some I take out of my collection and begin implementing, realizing their worth increases with continuous use.

Here are some live captures. For interest, I state where I captured the lexical little beastie.

 The Year of Lear by James Shapiro

  • recusant: a person who refuses to submit to an authority or to comply with a regulation. [Lots of Catholic/Protestant tussling going on in England around 1606]

The Victorian Life: Modern Adventures in Nineteenth Century Culture, Cooking, Fashion, and Technology by Sarah A. Chrisman

  • quotidian: of, or occurring every day; daily [a 21st century woman choosing a 19th century lifestyle would get used to the daily routine of repetive tasks such bread making]

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. NOTE: as long as keep teaching the novel I keep rereading it, and yet I still find new words. Fascinating.

  • deglutition: process of swallowing
  • celerity: swiftness of movement

Emma (The Austen Project #3) by Alexander McCall Smith

  • impedimenta: equipment for an activity or expedition, especially when considered as bulky or an encumbrance [this one I’m willing to trot out and air as in addressing my students, “Excuse me, your impedimenta is blocking the aisle.”]
  • canard: unproven rumor or story

This next batch mainly derive their existence and capture from the books of D.E. Stevenson. It is an on-going project to read her legacy of 40 novels (give or take a couple of Mrs. Tim’s). She’s primarily writing about Scottish and English life pre-WWII to 1975. It’s been interesting to see which words she favors and which words were in vogue during the span of her long career. She did favor the sprinkling of French.

  • ructions: a disturbance or quarrel [“ruckus” a relative?]
  • pourboire: a gratuity or tip
  • cavil: make petty or unnecessary objections
  • muckle: to cover inanimate objects in glitter in a vain attempt to make them appealing enough to buy [Mike Allegra dislikes muckley Christmas cards]
  • gaucherie: a tactless or awkward act
  • vaunted: highly praised
  • pied-a-terre: a temporary or second residence [very handy for the dismal months of winter glum]
  • arriviste: a social climber, a blunder

Do you collect words while reading? 

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9 thoughts on “Another Year of Interesting Words

  1. What a neat idea! I remember doing this when I was younger, so perhaps I should take up the habit again. Do you then attempt to use the words in conversation/writing?

    • I do. As I find them in other books I begin to make them my own because I’m more aware of them. It’s kind of like getting a red car and then noticing all the other red cars.

  2. I sometimes take note of words when reading, but most of the time I read them, am interested by them, then forget about them. I actually have the OED word of the day emailed to me every day, and I collect those. I have them all saved in a folder in my email to browse through as my leisure.

  3. Oh, these are good.

    I now look forward to the day when I can throw out celery with celerity.

  4. In junior high, my teacher would have us “on the lookout” for certain vocabulary words while reading novels. Of course, it wasn’t so much as a hunt for the words as it was “Keep these words in mind, note which pages they’re on, the sentence they’re in, and what the word means.” This was back in 1999-2003, so we still had to write everything out and couldn’t cheat. It actually helped a lot to learn new words this way. And I still have those books–highlighted words and all!

    I tried something similar a few years ago while I was reading “Water for Elephants,” but I didn’t highlight in the book. I noted which page it was on and the definition of the word, but I think I should’ve written out the sentence too. Granted, I have no idea where that notebook is anymore, and it feels a little archaic to write things out… but it helped!

  5. Great words, I wasn’t familiar with a few of them but I will try and get them into everyday usage now, work colleagues won’t know what’s hit them or indeed what I am on about.

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