Saturday, January 27, 2007

I Don't Think That Word Means What You Think It Means

English's greatest strength is also it's greatest weakness. It has a plethora of words, derived from languages all over the global, from which to choose. This enables the speaker or writer to convey subtle differences in a way that is difficult in languages with fewer words. However, it also means there a LOT of words out there, most of which you will never use unless you are taking a standardized test. The problem with that, as Joel Achenbach opines, is that standardized tests seem to use a thesaurus rather than a dictionary for their definitions. You don't get the full flavor of the word or understand how it would actually be used. A person is not generally picturesque (even if they are photogenic). Though the idea of being chased by an exasperated bear is kind of amusing.

The best way to learn new words is to encounter them in their natural environment. Books, newspapers, and magazines also tend to be more engaging than lists of words. Words in isolation lose their vitality and fail to inspire. But I guess kids don't have time to read these days. They're too busy studying for standardized tests.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right, I've learned many words -and how to spell them- by reading and seeing them in context. By the way ...INCONCEIVABLE!!

1/29/2007 8:12 AM  

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