Writing Using Meaningful Words

Two words were, and probably still are, able to set my son and me off into gales of laughter.

The words? “The drop.”

Why, you might ask?

The book, Juggling for the Complete Klutz, struck us both as funny, especially the chapter called “The Drop.” The authors suggested that to practice juggling, you should take the juggling cubes and just throw them in the air and let them drop to the floor.

Again, why? To see what it was like to miss the cubes in an attempt to juggle.

When I read the chapter as a bedtime story (Hey! Bedtime stories don’t all need to be Disney classics), we howled!

So now, the word “drop” makes me smile or laugh in almost any context.

Imbuing words with meaning is a writer’s job. These days, I fear that most people never had the benefit of eighth grade English with weekly vocabulary drills. The words opened whole new vistas and imaginative avenues for writing. Mr. Clavin did a terrific job in expanding our minds, as well as our vocabularies.

Flamboyant – I love the word. The words we learned are evocative – and that’s what words should be.

Courtesy of my classmate from those days, David P, who has a phenomenal memory, some of the words we learned were: anathema, bombastic, bumpkin, bumptious, buffoon, candid, coup d’état, heinous, harbinger, precocious, motley, ribald.

What rich, meaningful words they are! (And there were new ones each week.) They’re even fun to say.

The results of this enhanced vocabulary were not weak (Pun alert!). Writers and speakers who have a large vocabulary can make their words more meaningful and memorable. (Instead of the “sparkling blue” eyes one writer described repeatedly, there can be many options – twinkling, shining, gleaming, piercing, azure, cerulean, sky, etc.)

A few years ago, I was teaching a college writing skills class to juniors in a teacher-track program. The teachers had only 18 months until they would be certified to teach. On the last day of class –for fun– I held a spelling bee using an eighth grade word list. Of the 22 class members, only four of them made it to the second round. They did not know the words, so they could not spell the words.

Think about the implications of that for our next generation of writers.

Thank you, Mr. Clavin!

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