Learning New Words (Is Not Like Discovering New Pokemon)

Learning new words is like discovering new Pokemon. Actually, it’s not. I don’t like Pokemon. But I love discovering new words. Not all new words are created equal, though.

There are those you encounter while reading a literary novel that nestle on top of your brain and tickle you with a sense of linguistic joy. You don’t know what the word means and you can’t be bothered to look up its definition, but it makes you happy nonetheless. You can half understand its meaning from the context, and if you encounter it again you’ll consider looking it up.

Then there are those words that smack you between the eyes and you are compelled to look them up immediately. If you’re reading on a smartphone or kindle, it just takes a couple of taps to call up a definition. If you’re reading paper, you whip out that smartphone and transcribe the word as rapidly as possible, relying on autocorrect to smooth out your overzealous typing. Once you’ve satisfied your curiosity, you continue reading. The word fades but not without leaving a faint imprint on your mind.

Then there are those words that smack you between the eyes and proceed to lodge themselves deep in your brain. Here they reside, like grit, acting as nuclei around which form pearls of ideas. You now use them in your writing. They stick with you for life.

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