Use It In a Sentence: The Thrill of New Words
If you're an avid reader, a bibliophile, a bookworm, or in today's terms a 🤓 – then you are likely also a logophile, a philologist, a practitioner of epeolatry.
You, my friend, are a lover of words. (You might as well be K-I-S-S-I-N-G in a deciduous, angiosperm, eudicot plant.)
Encountering a new word while you're reading is like finding buried treasure. It's a chance to solve a mystery. And the best part is that there are ALWAYS new words to learn. I honestly can't wait to be 70 years old and find that I am still learning new words. Bring on the rhytides!
Coming across a new word forces you to slow your roll when you're reading.
"Wait, what was that?" you think to yourself. You re-read the sentence looking for clues to the case. You mull it over in your brain, "have I really never come across this before?" The hippocampus confirms that indeed a new discovery has been made and a fresh neural file is prepared to record the new specimen.
When you're on the hunt for new words, you are primed for active reading. And when you are primed for active reading, that's when real learning can happen.
I chew over new words like gum. Masticating in mouth, marinating in my brain. And like gum, it sticks. The words stick with me, and the books stick with me.
Here are some of the fresh new word files I've created from my reading in 2018:
FLÂNEUR - Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk by Kathleen Rooney
A flâneur is a stroller, an aimless wanderer, one who walks with no destination in mind. Usually in a city, the flâneur traipses over the urban landscape observing the human condition and the effects of modernity.
The main character of Kathleen Rooney's bouncy jaunt through mid-century New York advertising embodies these qualities as she strides through her old neighborhoods.
"In Praise of the Flâneur," an essay in The Paris Review, delves deeper into the magic and meaning of this esoteric French concept.
Use it in a sentence: "I'm quitting my job to become a flâneur! Just like Baudelaire would have wanted."
EPISTEMOLOGICAL - Amusing Ourselves To Death by Neil Postman
Epistemology - a theory of knowledge and truth. Including the method and scope of how what is true is defined and what “counts.” Epistemological is, of course, the adjective relating to what is true and why.
Neil Postman's classic text rages at the dominance and permanence of the Age of Television. He argues convincingly that the primacy of visual communication over the logic and reason of a written argument has had profound and utterly devastating political, social, and economic consequences. Oops.
Use it in a sentence: The current media environment is an epistemological battlefield where polarized audiences cannot accept the same information as being true.
MACADAM - Essays After Eighty by Donald Hall
Macadam refers to a type of early road pavement invented by Scottish engineer John McAdam in 1820. Using crushed, compacted stones to create a smooth surface, this type of road construction quickly spread all over Europe.
Donald Hall, former U.S. poet laureate, encountered the roads himself when driving through post WW2 Yugoslavia. No street lights. No GPS. No street signs. In a landscape cratered with bombs and gunshots. He tells some good stories in his collection "Essays After Eighty."
Use it in a sentence: Macadam roads were a weird and random thing to learn about while reading this book of essays. And that's great, because I love learning weird and random things from books.
NEMATODE - I Contain Multitudes by Ed Young
A nematode is a fancy way of saying roundworm. Basically it's like a roundworm with a top hat and monocle. A very classy parasite.
Nematodes are the most numerous multicellular animals on the planet. Most, but not all, are parasites of plants, animals, or insects. And they are represented in every ecosystem and habitat on Earth.
Among the many delightful facts and stories in Ed Yong's spellbinding non-fiction account of the unseen world of micro-organisms, there's a dazzling gem on nematodes; some nematode worms kill insects by vomiting toxic, glowing bacteria into their bodies!
Use it in a sentence: The image of nematodes vomiting toxic, glowing bacteria into their victims bodies is seared into my brain.
CORPUSCLE - From the Mixed Up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
Corpuscle refers to minuscule particles or cells within an animal organism, literally meaning "small body" from the Latin corpusculum.
"What's a word like corpuscle doing in a YA book?" I thought to myself as I was re-reading this novel recently. I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book as middle schooler. I picked it up again because I wanted to remember why.
Part of the reason why is the intelligence with which Konigsburg treats her readers. There's no pandering, dumbing down, or simplifying. The kids at the heart of the story figure out how to live in the world with all of its mystery, complexity, and yes, disappointment.
Another reason why is that it's about a bored, suburban eldest girl of many siblings who thinks things are boring and unfair and wants to be grown up. And so she runs away to a museum to solve a mystery about art. I think I may have related (just a tad).
Use it in a sentence: Today it's -20 degrees in Chicago. I'm afraid if I go outside every corpuscle in my body will freeze.