I have developed a bad habit over the years; I think I know what a particular word means only because I’ve heard it often. Then I began to think, what if someone challenged me to tell them exactly what that word means?
Well, I’d be sitting there with egg on my face, unable to give them a straight answer. So I began taking the time to actually look up words I’m familiar with, but can’t quote the exact meaning; such as “ineluctable.”
What a delicious and mysterious word it is! It actually means “not to be avoided or overcome; inevitable.” Who knew? So this now is one of my most fun hobbies; challenging myself to read up on those words for which I need a specific meaning.
I am a big fan of the Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child “Agent Pendergast” books. This agent is extremely intelligent, well-spoken, charming and educated. All of his beautiful black suits are “bespoke” suits, so of course I had to find out exactly what that meant.
The word simply means that the suit is made specifically for the person wearing it; that is, it is tailor-made, or “bespoke” for one person.
I realize that with today’s technology it is pretty easy to look up any word you want. However, I am too fond of leafing through my tattered copy of the American Heritage Dictionary to find the word I want. Plus it makes the hunt all that more rewarding.
I wonder if children in school still take that magical trip to the town library to see in person the dewy-decimal system; that arcane card file all librarians always used. This was how I learned to find books on my own without bothering the rather disapproving librarian in my town. It was kind of a powerful thing to a kid at that time; you learned the puzzle of where your favorite books lived in the library.
I’ll leave you with some of my newly-favorite words, now that I know what they mean:
- Seraglio – a harem. A sultan’s palace.
- Insuperable – incapable of being overcome; insurmountable.
- Nopar – without face value.
- Palimpsest – vellum or parchment that has been written upon several times, often with remnants of earlier, imperfectly erased writing still visible.
- Isobar – a line on a weather map connecting points of equal barometric pressure.
- Rapprochement – the establishment of cordial relations.
- Salubrious – favorable to health.