The Deep, Deep Well of Words

If your schooling was anything like mine, every other week brought a new vocabulary list to memorize.  I enjoyed these, for the most part.  The spelling part of the exercises were not so fun for me, but the vocabulary was enjoyable to learn.  My friends, however, did not agree.  Studying the classics broadens a reader’s vocabulary to include older words and older styles.  But there are so many words–beautiful words–that are still fresh and new and are never used.

Last week, I readThe Maytrees by Annie Dillard which used an amazing expanse of vocabulary.  I have never read someone with the depth of vocabulary that she uses in her works.  The story, though not my favorite, was charming and refreshing in its own way.  But the vocabulary was the real beauty of the book.  Dillard used words so fresh and bracing that you could actually feel the wind by the Maytrees’ shack and see the mudpits and feel the sea-salt in the air.  Beyond descriptive words, Dillard delved deeper into the realm of words to discuss the many nuances of her characters.  I nearly consulted a dictionary once or twice but chose not to.  (But I didn’t want to leave the book to look up the words.)  

A writer’s strength may be found in different arenas.  Some are amazing at building structures.  Some craft deep, nuanced characters.  But all writers can benefit expanding our vocabularies.  We really do constrict the beauty of language by narrowing our vocabulary.  So, let’s delve deep into the well of words and enrich our writing with what we find.

Take care,

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Seth Van Dexter
    Sep 10, 2014 @ 16:10:41

    My old English professor at JTCC said that, although big fancy words eventually evolved to be used by rich people to confuse peasants, they were originally used so you could say exactly what you mean instead of clumsily outlining what you’re trying to say with lesser words. For example, the word “schadenfreude”, borrowed from German, is a specific word for the specific situation of taking pleasure from somebody else’s misfortune.
    I’m glad to see you’re still actively writing 🙂


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