It’s only day three of this series and it is having the exact opposite effect on me as I expected. It’s making me feel full of myself. The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition is a dictionary, but not one with trivial words like “about” and “the.” Yet I’m finding that I know 95 percent of the words.
The funny thing is that I’ve recently reconnected with an old friend, Mark Neville. When I first met him, I was perhaps 20 years old. And I was struggling to improve my vocabulary, looking forward to eventually taking the SAT. I had a list of about 20 words that I was trying to learn. And Mark knew them all. I never did memorize those words.
But something changed around that time. I started reading a lot more — and widely. And if you want to develop your vocabulary, that’s the way to do it: read. Then you learn words without even trying. But I do remember struggling through some George Eliot with a dictionary close by. And much later, I did the same thing when I was going through a William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor phase. But mostly, you just learn the words without thinking much about it. And that’s much more pleasant than memorizing words out of context.
I Suffer From Acouasm
I could have gone with “acariasis” — but I don’t want to think about mites right now. Anyway, there was a much better word: “acouasm.” I have these all the time. I assume most people do. But if you don’t, it doesn’t mean I’m crazy. In fact, I don’t even know why you would suggest that. Really, there’s nothing wrong with me. Those doctors don’t know what they’re talking about anyway. I’m fine. Really, I am!
1. an imagined ringing in the head.
Date: unknown, but as a psychiatric term, probably fairly recent.
Origin: Greek: άκου, which is something like a hailing, “Hark!”
Example: Its singles have been imported from another, much better album, and any suggestion of a direct Wu-Tang influence can only be described as an acouasm. —Barry Schwart
Not Feeling Too Good
I’ll bet you anything Mark already knew that word!