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Friday, March 23, 2012

Judge me if you like, but I read the dictionary a lot. Well, it's more accurate to say that I look up words on dictionary.com a lot. You might say that my current vocation is reading, so it's bound to happen that I come across a word I've never seen. Even in theology, the words I look up are not the "God-words"; rather, they are regular English words related somehow. Augustine or his translator forced me to look up "droll" yesterday. The GRE word game on the site says I know almost 12,000 words, which I guess is good. But I digress, which means I am departing from the main point of my narrative. They served up 419 words, and I correctly defined 92% percent of them. Being the perfectionist that I am, I was annoyed, surely thinking back to those that would have been correct if I had read the definitions a little more carefully.
Some of you who are vain will mock me for not knowing a simple word like "droll," and all I can say is that many words we have seen, we accept or get used to without ever stopping to define. Even more common is when we think we know a word, and our friend the dictionary quickly informs us that we are mistaken, or at least missing a subtlety (looked that one up for the spelling) that our connotation had missed.
I am very droll. Amusing in an odd way. I thought that's what amusing meant. That's a bit redundant, no? On the other hand, we have things called "amusement parks" that only accidentally involve humor, so perhaps I miss a sublety.
I'm one of those people nostalgic by nature, in that I like old TV shows. I like police procedurals and whodunits, especially. Like "Matlock" and "Murder, She Wrote." And "Columbo." Anyway, it just came to me: I'll bet the character Jessica Fletcher knows a lot of words. She's an author, so it's a reasonable supposition. Do you think you'd find Jessica reading the dictionary? I do. In my youth, I would hear people talking about a "genius" here or there, and the anecdotal evidence they'd bring forward is, "He reads the dictionary." And that amuses me, because my lack of apparent genius is brought to my awareness by the necessity of the dictionary.

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