Tuesday, 20 November 2007
Words, words, words...
‘The hallmark of every truly educated person is a wide and flexible vocabulary’
The above is a quotation from Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis, a book I loved as a child. Our orphaned eleven-year-old hero goes to live with his aunt, and she gets him to follow her about with notepad and pencil to improve his vocabulary.
Auntie Mame: Well, now, read me all the words you don't understand.
Patrick: Libido, inferiority complex, stinko, blotto, free love, bathtub gin, monkey glands, Karl Marx... is he one of the Marx Brothers? Neurotic, heterosexual...
Auntie Mame: Oh, my my my my, what an eager little mind. [takes the list] You won't need some of these words for months and months.
Mame was right about her nephew's vocabulary. I've been thinking about this, partly because of FreeRice, but also because of one or two comments on Youwriteon and elsewhere suggesting that a writer should limit the words he uses in case his readers are unfamiliar with them. One of Rising Fire's reviewers doubted teenagers would know 'monastic', 'elaborately coiled', 'dragon lore', or 'inscrutable'.
Can this be true? If teenagers really cannot cope with these words, then the sooner they learn to the better. Without going all Lord Reith over this, I write to entertain, but have no objection to doing a bit of informing at the same time.
There is no point at which anyone, of whatever age, has learned all the words he needs. Get out your notepads!
Posted by Lexi at Tuesday, November 20, 2007