One of my favorite activities in elementary school was writing out a new weekly list of words, written on the chalkboard by the teacher. She gave us the week to write out the words, look up the definitions in one of the classroom dictionaries, and write (not copy) down the meanings in our own words.
I loved the activity because I love words and I love, love, love getting lost in the dictionary. Yes, now I can look up the words with a few taps on my phone, but there is something to going through the pages and finding the word “altogether” behind “alternative” and before “aluminum.” Research tells us that even in these times of smart phones in our pockets, writing things down helps our brains to retain the information. As a lover of words, I miss the weekly vocabulary lesson, but I usually encounter one of my well-worn dictionaries sometime during the week. Maybe I’m playing and looking for meaning. Sometimes, I’ve stumbled upon a word in one of the books I’m reading that I don’t know the meaning of, or I’m not sure if what I think about the word’s meaning is correct.
Last night, I thought about making a vocabulary lesson to my life. I thought that might be a fun exercise, deliberating and praying and meditating on the words that have meaning in my life. That feels like a good one to explore, but maybe later, with some focus and deliberation. Instead, I sat down with a pen and a composition notebook and wrote down all of the favorite words I could think of in the moment. The words started in three columns, and later I was scrambling to find space in the margins. As more words came to mind, the empty space on the page shrunk into oblivion.
I love some words for their spelling, some for the meaning, some for their phonetic sound, some for the idea, and some due to their resonance in my own life. And there are some words that I love for all their reasons.
In no particular order, here are the words on the list that I wrote last night. And it’s interesting to see where some words get repeated, either because I really loved it, or forgot that I had already listed it, and because it was part of my stream of consciousness.
Vocabulary, love, words, million, intellectual, spiritual, lovely, cucumber, perspective, wilderness, marathon, book, recipe, read, run, saunter, seek, abacus, bracelet, teapot, moon, healing, hot springs, anthology, animal, vegetable, mineral, plant, list, gin and tonic, nap, cook, cookbook, massage, yay, camp, bridge, hike, tent, paper airplane, oblivion, shatter, discover, compost, tree, cellar, sweat, anorak, bicycle, silence, silent, triathlon, writer, footsteps, catapult, boomerang, spark, pontificate, home, forgiveness, treasure, meditation, breath, van, cilantro, condition, grey, temporary, altogether, spirit, squash, garlic, zucchini, watermelon, arithmetic, chile, forest, pepper, cuddle, wild, play, lobster, prairie, savannah, bird, mountain, words, meaning, solitude, cooperation, ecology, egg, scramble, kitchen, poetry, winsome, loose, free, freedom, limber, character, release, bone, braid, rain, precipitation, sprinkle, essay, diary, pyramid, dictionary, talisman, backpack, pack, pasture, speechless, bag, table, track, symmetry, synchronicity, simplicity, belong, land, hearth, home, artist, poet, create, bread, knead, dough, crisp, dog, chicken, cake, season, heirloom, carriage, vintage, amoeba, amaranth, jewelry, daisy, worm, sage, rock, frog, burn, campfire, spritz, kindergarten, honey, chakra, stymie, mate, radio, biscuit, friend, dawn, canoe, kayak, paddle, rodeo, boots, thunder, indigo, radio, flute, syrup, honey, spark, kettle, skillet, soothe, caper, relief, certificate, turquoise, juniper, peace, cedar, ribbon, groovy, hammock, read, siesta, paragraph, swim, giggle, laundry, stroll, fracture, lightning, thunderstorm, garden, amen, bowl, hammer canopy, feather, pun, field guide, dance, sing, visit, trip, palindrome, curl, metronome, knickknack, basket, heritage, pedestal, recycle, picnic, whisper, verb, laughter, joke, tears, lisp, pronounce, participle, wistful, persimmon, wish, blithe, balcony, music, onomatopoeia, whoosh, patio, corduroy, chambray, script, accordion, barn, garage, piano, theatre, adobe, tortilla, turtle, ristra, mimosa, oracle, roast, cardigan, revelry, sunset, sun, sunrise, rise, set, gesticulate, pedestal, retroactive, weirdo, vessel, humus, hummus, bizarre, raisin, wrinkle, smile, grief, shadow, cumin, applause, mother, unknown, pontificate, turntable, bravery, boomerang, sneeze, weep, everyday, moment, muse, puppy, skirt, match, cinnamon, chocolate, cactus, rhythm, unknown, anonymous, dessert, desert, appreciation, clamp, sanctuary, chapel, prayer, write, adventure, natural, favorite, magical, quadrant, myth, mystic, mystical, cornbread, co-op, monster, whisper, marvel, dove, fun, magazine, pine, bookshelf, massage, forever, ratatouille, casserole, twilight, nostalgia, sleep, dream, legend, soup, act, tremble, croissant, sacrosanct, record, cozy, travel, wander, wanderlust, learn, reflect, Ecuador, sense, quilt, muddy, crochet, binocular, wonder, asteroid, pickle, knot, tin, ephemera, talisman, camera, tarot, index card, quiver, question, pencil, scribble, clogs, stars, game, onion, package, packet, burrito, pizza, fingerprint, nutmeg, boggle, fire, fracture, leap, lesson, bake, candle, rope, triage, whimsy, sacred, search, plaid, beatitude, season.
For a couple of words, I prefer the British spelling, grey vs. gray and savannah vs. savanna.
I’m swimming in words and meanings. It is interesting to see the words that have been favorites all along, and the ones that have been in my thoughts recently. Next time you’re searching for meaning, or when you just need time to pause and reflect, make a list of the words that you love. You can use an internet-based word cloud generator to make an image with your words, if you type them into a document.
What do you find? What do you see?
Words, language, meaning. Discovery.