Thursday, February 23, 2012

Expand Your Vocabulary Part 2

I wanted to add on to yesterday's post. The reason that my vocabulary is so strong is that every word I know is connected with several others by numerous principles. Every time I learn a new word, it connects with other words I know, as well as other linguistic principles I have.

For example, I mentioned the word "bespeak" yesterday. When I heard it, the first thing I thought about was the word "belie". Well, guess what. "Bespeak" and "belie" are basically antonyms. And since "belie" means "to show something to be false" and has "lie" in it, then I know that "bespeak" must be the opposite, meaning "to show something that is true."

Any time you learn a new word, understand that it does not exist in a vacuum. It evolved from previous words. It belongs to the same family as other words - words you probably already know. This is another great reason to learn grammar and other nitty gritty aspects of English (Latin and German don't hurt, either). If you can analyze and break down a word into its smaller components, if you can track down the history and evolution of the word, you will have a deeper and stronger understanding of it, even if it is the first time you ever saw that word, and you will be much more likely to retain it and use it in the future.


  1. The most interesting class I ever took in Cortland was History of the English Language. Or maybe it was Study of the English Language. Anyway - we had to write two research papers for that class, and in each we had to pick four words that were connected via theme and then research the etymology of that word. It was a really cool exercise for nerds like us! Did you get to take the class?

  2. I took History of the English Language. It was a 500-level grad class. Great for learning the actual history of English and what was responsible for its evolutions over its ~1300-year history.

    I also took Study of the English Language. I think that was a 400-level course. I can't think of the professor's name, but he was really cool and had long hair. That was probably the best linguistics class I've ever taken.

  3. I had DiCicco for it. He was a bit of a jerk, but he gave me an A+ on my second paper, so I was happy.