I have a fairly impressive vocabulary, but only when I write.
When I speak, I’m all … um … I talk goodly and use many bigly … what-do-you-call-em … words.
I attribute that to long hours of talking to absolutely nobody except the dog. And she doesn’t care what I say unless I utter those life-changing words “cookie” or “dinner.” That’s the only time I impress her with my vocabulary.
I solve a lot of crossword puzzles which helps grow a vocabulary, but I’m always amazed when I actually learn words that I’ve seen many times over the course of my life.
When my husband reads an unfamiliar word, he takes the time to look it up. You know, like a grown-up. I prefer the “guess it from context” method. Mind you, that usually works. That’s why kids are taught to search for context clues when they’re learning to read.
Crosswords have a kind of “crosswordese,” where words and clues are used over and over. One of them is the word WIG. But the clue is always “peruke.”
Now, WIG is a very simple word to fill in a crossword grid, so I never really had to think about the clue very hard. But “peruke” has always sounded like a verb to me, so it never made much sense.
Provoke, rebuke, puke.
Finally I couldn’t take it and looked it up and found it was another [albeit archaic] word for a wig. A noun. Who knew?
Another word I finally took the trouble to learn was “bespoke.” This too must be a verb because … well … “spoke.”
But no. A bespoke suit is not one that talked to you. Rather, it was one that was made for you. An adjective. The lazy runs deep in me and I never felt compelled to look it up because I never needed to. If the sentence had to do with someone dressed neatly in his bespoke suit, I could remove that word and still understand the sentence just fine. Knowing the word now, I suppose it’s possible I missed the nuance of the character wearing a one-of-a-kind suit, but I bet the author gave me other clues that he was rich, or persnickety, or whatever a person is who wears bespoke suits.
Another word I learned later in my life than I should probably admit was “penultimate.” I always just dropped that “pen” off the front and called it good. The last or best of something.
Imagine my surprise to find out that “penultimate” means the second to the last of something. Do we really need a word for that? I have never heard anyone utter the word “penultimate” out loud.
But now that I’ve learned it, I can utter it out loud like a pro.
“I hope that when I end my series about the man in the bespoke suit that people won’t wish the penultimate book had closed it out instead. If they do, I’ll just tug my peruke over my ears and slink away in cognito.”
Nala: Um … Becky … “incognito” is one word.
Me: No, it’s not. Cognito are the clothes someone might wear when they need to be stealthy. Like a ninja uniform. How would you know anyway? You can’t even read.
Nala: But I still know that incognito is one word.
Me: How can you even read this blog post?
Me: Fine. You’re smarter than me. Happy now?
Me: What now?