Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Sunday, December 5, 2010

But what does it mean?

In fourth grade, my kids had a teacher who used to teach them vocabulary, focusing on the "wacky word of the week". My kids loved these lessons and especially delighted in walking around and using their new words coloquially. I remember feeling the same way about learning new words. I still do. In fact, the dictionary is one of my favorite books. Really. If you feel the same way, you might get a kick out this blog post.
The following are the 10 most frequently looked up words on Merriam-Webster.com: Pretentious, Ubiquitous, Love, Cynical, Apathetic, Conundrum, Albeit, Ambiguous, Integrity, Affect/Effect. It seems fair to assume that people look up "affect" and "effect" with regularity to be certain they use the correct one.  You have to appreciate the fact that "love" made the list. This is either because people like to include a definition in speeches and cards or because people are searching for meaning and questioning if they'll know it when they find love. There's something sweet and simultaneously sad that "love" made it onto the list. And what about "integrity"? The fact that people flock to the internet to learn the meaning of "integrity" must say something about people and our culture and I suspect it's not a very positive something. Despite these curiosities, I'm quite pleased with this list because "pretentious", "ubiquitous", "conundrum" and "albeit" are among my favorite words. I also happen to adore the word "nevertheless". One of my daughters just let me know she loves the word "ricochet". Her sisters love the words "clichĂ©" and "style". Do you have a favorite word?

For a fun look at words, check out Lemony Snicket and Maira Kalman's 13 Words and Jane O'Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser's Fancy Nancy Series.                
Merriam-Webster.com also boasts an impressive collection of user-submitted words. These are the clever words or phrases that really should be in the dictionary. It was here that I first learned the "word" SANCTIMOMMY for a mother who points out perceived faults in the parenting of others. How awesome is that?!

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