I NH! Purple is my favorite color. So much so, my wedding dress was lilac with a giant purple collar, long before it was fashionable to step outside the white and ivory norms.
This mushroom, from the Piscataquag River trail yesterday, is my favorite shade… Is it lilac? Periwinkle?
Precision in language makes us better communicators, yet we have become so lazy, so dismissive of the exuberance and elegance of the English language.
We can do better.
I’ve always been a big reader. As a bilingual person, fluent in Afrikaans and English, with a smattering of German and Spanish (who was forced to take Latin in law school; ahem–don’t be too impressed, I failed it twice! LOL), I’ve always had a penchant for the beauty of language, the word play, puns, and humor around nuanced word choices.
For many years, to improve my vocabulary, I read an Oxford English dictionary on the loo. To me, this was an escape, an adventure, one strange word leading to another, an entire journey with new thoughts, ideas, and synapses forming simply by opening a page in a book.
Does anyone do this anymore?
When I moved to America, even as an “English as a second language speaker,” I was told by bosses and colleagues to use “easier” or “simpler” words.
To dumb it down.
Know what happens when you dumb shit down?
You get a lot of dumb shit. [<—We are here.]
Whether it’s picking the right shade to describe the color of a mushroom down by the river, or finding that precise word to express a frustration with a friend, or the correct term to express your love, I’m on a mission to stop “dumbing it down” just because someone told me to.
Instead, let’s push the power of precision. Let’s explore the vast universe of our shared vocabulary. You may not know all the words–unless you are Rain Man, one cannot–but it’s in the not knowing, in the discovery, in the learning, in the ultimate agreement in terminology that understanding lies.
The answers to many societal problems lie in improving our communication skills. Let’s learn and grow together.
Perhaps I’m unique in this, but do you have secretly coveted words that you just love for whatever reason? I do. Two of mine are “gobsmacked” (because it sounds like someone lugged a loogie to get your attention) and “cat’s paws” (raindrops falling on water).
I wrote an award-winning short story, WHEN WE TALK ABOUT WORDS about this topic (p. 31). I was even paid $1,000 when it was first published. You can read this and other stories in my book THE ECSTATIC PESSIMIST: STORIES OF HOPE (MOSTLY) available on Amazon.
In the comments below, tell me your favorite word–I know you have one–and feel free to throw in the definition too.
Let the communicating commence!