Sometime ago, I volunteered to provide Killer Nashville with a word a day for their website. No problem, I thought. When I come across a word I think is interesting (or I don’t know the meaning of), I’ll add it to my list, then I’ll look up definitions and … wa la. I’ll round out the list by thumbing through books or, if I need more words, the dictionary.
Well, now that I’m almost finished with the task I see there would’ve been easier ways to’ve done it (much easier), but what’s done is done. Of course, I encountered many words I didn’t know. For example, did you know there’s a word for that fresh smell of the earth after a rain? Yep. It’s “petrichor.” That’s probably my favorite discovery.
While I did use my “jot words down” method, it became obvious the list wouldn’t be complete until sometime in the next decade if I relied sole only that method. For one thing, keeping up with all of those slips of paper–in the car, in my iPad, by the sofa where I read the newspaper, by my work chair … Therefore, I jumped straight where I was sent when I was a little girl and asked the meaning of something–the dictionary.
I began by looking up the words in a traditional, hard-backed dictionary and comparing that definition to an online one before composing one myself. Fumbling with the heavy book while balancing my laptop became too cumbersome, and the font in the book got smaller and smaller the longer I worked. I therefore abandoned the weighty volume for several online versions. Unfortunately, my increase in productivity by moving solely online was undermined as I was often distracted by fumbling with examples of LSAT, GRE, MCAT, and other diversions.
My favorite word-sources were the built in dictionary with my Macbook Pro, Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary and Thesaurus, and Your Dictionary-The Dictionary You Can Understand. I tried to used a “modern” American usage dictionary, but the profanity was too frequent to take it seriously.
After providing the definition, Dictionary.com presented a box that said “Abc is always a great word to know. So is xyz. Does xyz mean…” Then it would list two definitions. After I answered, another question popped up, over and over. Sometimes, I’d get so caught up in the quiz I’d forget to note the words on my spreadsheet. Oh, well.
Has doing this improved my vocabulary? Goodness gracious, I hope so. I probably won’t use many of the words in speech — it take all of my memory to remember the words I already know. But I think I’ll recognize them when reading and remember them when writing. I didn’t do the list alphabetically, though when I put it in alphabetical order to check for duplicates, there were less than a dozen because I’d either remembered the word or the definition I’d reworked. It was telling to examine my duplicate definitions to see just how close they were to each other. None were exactly alike.
It was an interesting project, but much more labor intensive that I’d have thought. I’m happy to help out Killer Nashville because the conference gives so much to the writing community. Remember registration is open and early registration ends March 1! I blogged about it a couple of weeks ago.
Back to my 366 words (it is leap year, you know).