Learning New Words

When is the last time you learned a new word?

Thanks to a straight line storm that hit where I live, I learned the word “derecho.”

Like many in my region of the country, I learned a new one this past week thanks to the horrible storm known as a derecho. This storm is a widespread, long-lived wind storm that can produce destruction similar to that of tornadoes. The damage typically is directed in one direction along a relatively straight swath. As a result, the term ‘straight-line wind damage’ sometimes is used to describe derecho damage.

When I realized this word was new to me, I started thinking about how I learn new words. I used to love Reader’s Digest for its “Word Play,” which is a quiz that improves vocabulary. When I read a book in high school and college, I always took the time to look up words I didn’t know. Unfortunately, when I read now, I often skim over the word.

When did I get so lazy? The question hit me when I was in a shop and came upon a little book called 100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know. Of course, I couldn’t resist purchasing it. I was familiar with most of the words, but discovered that a few of them I was using incorrectly. Yikes!

The book not only provided me with the definition but included examples of usage and history of the word. At the end of the book are exercises to improve vocabulary. Of course, one is to write down the words I don’t know and look them up. My favorite, though, is to create a list of words that I think people should know if they were to learn more about a topic that interests me. I thought I might apply that to my day job. Such a list would be beneficial to new employees.

What is the last new word you learned?