As I was reading through our text, I came across words like "nexus," "vociferous," "ethnocentric," and "matrilineal," just to name a few. I am not ashamed to admit that I had no idea what these words meant, even though I read the text and it all flowed nicely. OK, actually, I sort of knew what matrilineal meant, but I wasn’t 100% sure. I still had to look it up just ease my mind. I wrote these vocabulary words down and logged onto dictionary.com when I got home to look up their meaning.
I am 44 years old and here I am, looking up these words online because I don’t know what they mean. I know the author used them in the right context. Still, to me they are big words. Does that mean I have a limited vocabulary? It sort of makes me feel like my education is a little inadequate, and I ought to have a huge vocabulary by now. I am, after all, 44 years old. I mean, I worked as an executive assistant for a vice president in a large corporation for five years. I also worked in word processing for 16 years. You’d think my vocabulary would include words like nexus, vociferous, ethnocentric, and matrilineal, and other such big words. Nope. Never heard of those words before. Seriously.
I once attended a writer’s conference in Colorado Springs. The guest speaker said we should not use big words or we would lose our readers. Yes, at times, I did get lost in our text, but after re-reading the paragraph, I understood those big words. So it takes me a little longer to “get it.” I am at least getting it. There is nothing wrong with looking things up in the dictionary if you don’t know the definition, even at my age. When I was in word processing, our motto was, “When in doubt, look it up.” And that’s exactly what we did if we questioned grammar, punctuation, and even spelling. One can’t know everything all the time, right?
An English professor (name withheld to protect her identity) said that we should not use a thesaurus in our writing. The guest speaker in Colorado Springs said it needed to be a staple on our reference shelf. I guess it boils down to individual preference because I still rely heavily on both the thesaurus and dictionary for improving my vocabulary, as well as my writing. Learning really is a life-long process. I am forever learning big words, even at 44 years of age.