Decades ago, I learned to delight in that staple of elementary school education, the vocabulary quiz. As kindergarten students, we were exempted from its discipline, but once we entered first grade it was expected that we would learn twenty new words each week — not only their meanings, but also their spelling, correct pronunciation, and proper use in a sentence.
As far as I was concerned, forty weekly words would have been acceptable. Every word turned on my tongue like a key, unlocking a new and unexpected world. Sometimes, pushing against inexplicable spellings or mysterious definitions, I found words to be like windows, opening to reveal a variety of intriguing vistas.
Words with multiple syllables were my favorites. Tumbling through sentences like grade-schoolers at play, it seemed they could go on forever. Walking to school in the morning, I’d rehearse them in my mind. Perspicacity. Archetype. Lacuna. Paraphernalia. Abnegate. Chrysanthemums. (more…)