Every day I learn at least two new words. On some days I learn more. A lot of those words are interesting, but I probably won’t use them very often, if at all. However, they at least tell me something about English and provide some food for thought on how to use words in the text that I write to convey specific meanings. I’ve written about this topic before in Not Mere Words and again in Power Words. However, it’s a theme that needs to be repeated because people often find it hard to convey their thoughts due to a lack of words in their vocabulary. The result is often garbled, with the hearer not really understanding what the speaker wants to say.
I learned two new words this week that I could potentially use at some time. The first is metathesis, which is a mispronunciation due to the transposition of letters or syllables in a word. The most common metathesis for me is saying Calvary instead of cavalry. The transposition of the letter l is the problem in this case. It turns out that some words in our language are actually created because of metathesis. For example, the word mullion (a vertical divider, such as a piece of wood in a window) comes from the metathesis of the word munial. It doesn’t surprise me that there is a word to describe an error that most people make, but until now I didn’t know what it is. The funniest word that I’ve learned is formed from metathesis is girn, which is a kind of grimace or snarl. Of course, the source term is grin.
The second word is biovermiculation, which refers to lines drawn on a surface by a microbial community. I read about this word in a National Geographic article entitled The Hunt for Life Beyond Earth. I found the implications of the article amazing, but the addition of a new word to my vocabulary is a bit more practical. Without the proper word to describe this phenomena, it would be difficult for me to understand that biovermiculation on another planet could possibly point to life on that planet—at least, sometime in the past. Knowing the proper words gives you the power to convey specific meanings and provides you with an advantage over someone whose vocabulary is less comprehensive (and therefore, less precise).
I build my word power through a number of sources. Of course, National Geographic and Smithsonian both provide me with new words that appear with surprising regularity in my writing. However, for those two daily words, I look to A.Word.A.Day and Word of the Day. In addition, I build my word power through all sorts of technical sources, including other books. There are many places where you can find interesting new words to use when writing or simply speaking to someone else. What new word have you learned today? Tell me about your positive (and G rated) word learning experience at [email protected].