The meaning of words

meaning of words

I’m not as clever as I think I am.I’m not good with the meaning of words.

I’ve been reading for years, I’d say I’m quite practised at it.  Sure, now and again, I look up a few words that I don’t know, when I come across them. But, generally, I’ve got a good level of education; I know what this stuff means.

I mean, I know the exact definition of THAT word and I don’t need to be running to the dictionary every time it pops.

It’s a bit of a chore picking up the dictionary and looking through it and trying to find that scuzzy old definition when you’re going along with the flow. So you tend not to. You tend to pretend that you know the meaning of words. And you get out of practice with learning new stuff.

I’m a feckin’ well-read person. I know what feckin’ nascent means…

For writers, this is a dangerous thing to do. Words without meaning can get stuck in your head. Then you start using these words in your own work, end up with obstreperous in the wrong context and then some do-gooding feck-wit with a degree in English comes along and says: “Well I don’t know why you’re using that itty-bitty word there…maybe youz don’t be understandey zee Inglish. Fool!”

Here are some words out of context. Be honest, can you come up with their exact definitions straight off the top of your head and out of context?

  • Elan
  • Pernicious
  • Obstreperous
  • Venal
  • Sardonic
  • Nascent
  • Intractable

If you can, well done you.  Like me, though, you might be half right. Have an essence of the meaning but not the true meaning. I mean nail on the head, EXACT meaning.

For all writers this is dangerous.

Note for dummies: We writer types know that good writing depends on having the write/rite/right word in the write/rite/right place.

When I see “venal” in a sentence I think shifty. Venal is an adjective. It means showing or motivated by a susceptibility to bribery; corrupt. My thought is not far from the truth, but it’s not accurate.

My understanding of the word is not nail-on-the-head 100% pure.

Sardonic? Sardonic again is an adjective. It means grimly mocking or cynical. Did you get that? I mean, EXACTLY? Yes? Well done you. No?

Well then, here’s rule of the day: Always, always, ALWAYS find the meaning of words you’re not sure of. Make the effort. Keep a little notebook with these words in and spend a little time learning them properly.

3 thoughts on “The meaning of words

  1. That’s the great thing about kindle – just have to press the word man

  2. Nicely done. There are many words I just learn from context and have to look up if I want the exact definition.

    1. Thanks Cathleen, it’s something I often have to force myself to do.

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