Tried to learn a new word everyday of July. The aim wasn’t to arm myself with some set of obscure words to impress strangers, but really to save myself from some embarrassment. Growing up, I don’t think I had the best education. Not that it wasn’t available right in front of me, but because I really didn’t put the effort in, and because I often just fell through the cracks. Not asking the questions when I needed the answers. For the most part, my scores usually placed me in classrooms at a low level. One middle-school year in particular, we took an unexpected test that “wouldn’t count toward our grade.” Given that, I was more interested in making an intricate design on my scantron than actually taking the test. I’m pretty sure it was intended to determine our reading level though, since at the start of next quarter I was placed in a small classroom of kids who were hardly literate. We were tossed candy every time we were able to read a sentence aloud to the class, so I went on with it. It was more of an exercise in learning how to catch, than how to read.
Some of those consequences of my education have come up in my day to day. Particularly with vocabulary, and especially in my twenties. I thought “thirdary” was a word, and even used it often at work. You know, like, primary, secondary, “thirdary” (deep exhale to blink away the sting of embarrassment). I thought several meant exactly seven. I regularly misuse affect and effect to this day. Or how about that time I sent that company-wide email, explaining we needed to first “asses” the situation. God.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t able to laugh at it all today, and the truth is, time and experience fill in the gaps of our education pretty quickly anyhow. That said, I like learning, and there is still a real possibility I’m regularly making a mistake as offensive as “thirdary,” but just not yet aware of it (yikes). So I downloaded “Word of the Day,” paid for a lifetime membership because I’m a sucker, and a new habit was born.
I go out of my way to hide and silence most notifications on my devices, but it’s actually been pretty fun getting a daily ping for a new word. Plenty I’d heard before but didn’t know their meaning, and some I’d never seen in my life. The only words I already knew for the month were vignette, imperiled, sleuth, garble, Manhattanhenge, and Earthship. While not every new word sticks with me, enough do. The clearest win from the month was recognizing a word in the book I’m currently reading, that I only learned just days earlier. Couldn’t help but smile a little at it. We’re halfway though August now and I’m still keeping up with it, so I think this one’s here to stay. It’s kinda fun and takes such little effort, so why not. Plus, while I did say I wasn’t doing any of this to impress strangers, I have no issue trying everything I can to impress my wife. So far, she is not amused.