The problem with reading dictionaries is that you find yourself writing words into your prose that you are certain you would not understand yourself if you came across it in someone else’s book.
But that’s how vocabulary grows so you should never shy away from it. The context should carry the word anyway. And if you read in the way I do, and come across a word you don’t know, google is at your fingertips with all the meanings and definitions for all the words and things in every language in all the world. Smart phones are magic impossible devices sent to us by aliens.
(I just want to say quickly that I am aware that using the words “but” and “and” at the beginning of a sentence is technically wrong. It is a matter of grammar that I dispute. If it is used widely in common speech it is acceptable in prose. I might expand in this point at a later date).
Anyway, I was talking about words you wouldn’t normally use. I wrote the following sentence –
She made a wonderful mellifluous sound.
In the interest of context, the girl mentioned in the above sentence was enjoying the intimate company of the protagonist (Ghastly isn’t it? Sex has no place in comedy, the scene will probably be deleted). Mellifluous is a word no one knows naturally. In fact it’s a word I didn’t know I knew until I wrote it and had to look it up to see what it meant and if it fit the sentence, which by chance it did. Osmosis in action. Mellifluous. I’m not going to tell you what it means (you may already know). If you don’t, think about what you think it means and then google it.
On this occasion I actually decided not to use the endlessly helpful Google (or the brilliant and underrated Wikipedia) and instead I took the opportunity to flop open my massive and beguiling Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. It has all of the words in it. Look at it. It’s enormous –
You see, it’s big isn’t it. Let’s open it at random and see what new word we discover.
Cock-horse. Well, there we are. Who was expecting that? Definition –
(In the dictionary the definition is long and exhaustive so I’ll break it down) A Cock-horse is when a child rides an adults knee. Like a game. Pretending she’s riding a horse.
The massive dictionary makes for a nice light bedtime read for the kids too –
I mean, who has ever used the word mellifluous before? I know I haven’t. Well, I have now, 4 times. But you know what I mean. I don’t think I’ll be using cock-horse any time soon.
I seem to recall having some kind of point when I started this post. Until I got distracted by the dictionary. I might start doing a word of the month (or whenever I come across an interesting one). Here’s a good word – Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia. It’s the name given to the fear of long words. There’s a psychologist somewhere with a sense of humour. Some people add an extra “p” in the “…quippedalio…” bit. But that’s just silly.
Do feel free to share any interesting words in the comments.
If you liked this post you might also like this one – https://andychapwriter.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/paradise-lost-hobby-gained/