Monday, February 13, 2012

the Listener isn't gobby!

My son greeted me when he got home today with 'Mum, you have to tell me what these words mean!' He had been reading an article in the Listener, and had come across the following words which he didn't recognise. He is a uni student and was a bit shocked that he didn't know some of the vocabulary.

The words he got stuck on were
  • opprobrium
  • pomeranium
  • whole furore
  • Orpington hens
  • gobby dilettante

Most of them he had been able to guess from the context but opprobrium we had to look up in a dictionary just to check that we were right. Two other words that my son commented on were 'histrionics' and 'bilge'. He said that he really liked those words. I asked him how come he knew the meaning of those two words but not some of the others - he said 'I guess I just absorbed those words somewhere along the line'.

And the word that I didn't know of them all? 'Gobby'- which is a slang word meaning loud-mouthed and offensive. So that's my new vocab for this week, courtesy of the Listener.

NB. The 'Listener' is a NZ magazine that comes out every week. As well as having feature articles and regular columnists, it lists all the TV and radio programmes available in NZ for each week.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Do you know the meaning of any of the words below?


I would be surprised if you do! They are all non-words - created to be used in vocab tests with students to see if they recognise 'real' words from words that are plausible non-words ie. they LOOK like words but don't have any meaning. Feel free to add any words that YOU have made up that sound like an English word, but aren't real at all!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Size of your vocabulary

Test Your Vocabulary I received this link in a recent email. It is a site intended to measure the vocab of both native and non-native English speakers. You tick the words that you know from a selection and at the end of the test it gives you an approximate total of the number of words you know in English. My result was between 30-40 thousand words... which is quite a lot of vocabulary! It's a very general test as it doesn't actually test your knowledge, but relies on you identifying which words you don't actually know!

The blog
that talks about the test has some interesting facts and figures about vocab sizes generally - an excerpt below.

We've made two discoveries so far. The first is that, for native speakers age 18+, most people (74%) have a vocabulary size between 20,000 and 35,000 (13% below, and 13% above). Of course, this is for the specific subset of people who are Internet users and have taken our test so far.

Our second discovery is much more interesting, a statistic we haven't come across anywhere before. We calculated average vocabulary sizes for native English speakers for ages 15–32, which is the range of ages for which we have at least 100 respondents per year of birth, and discovered there is a remarkably linear progression from 23,303 words (age 15) to 29,330 words (age 32), which works out to an average increase of 355 words per year, or almost exactly one new word a day (0.97 words to be precise).

What I find intriguing is that my age and the total I got tally with their suggestion that I am learning about one new word a day!

newbie and other words with ie endings

I came across the word 'bestie' for the first time the other day. It was used on a Facebook posting of a picture of my daughter and one of her very close friends and underneath someone had added the caption 'Besties' ie. best friends.

We seem to have a habit of doing this in NZ. We start off when the kiddies are quite little by getting them to eat veggies, bickies and chippies. Then they grow up and become chippies, sparkies or posties. What other words can you think of that we shorten with an 'ie' ending?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wassup? It's official

Well, wassup has officially entered the latest edition of the Oxford Dictionary, says an article that describes some of the newest words the dictionary contains. It already has 600,000 words in it - is there really room for more? Well, FYI and LOL, most commonly used in text language, have now found their way into the dictionary.

'English is universally considered to be the richest spoken language in terms of number of words.' And I learnt that acronyms - where you have letters that stand for something like MAF (Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries) and scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) are only acronyms if they are actually pronounced as a word rather than just the letters. So NCEA (our exam/qualification system in schools) is NOT considered an acronym.

Monday, March 7, 2011

blended words

I was listening to the news the other day, and the announcer was talking about two countries and said they were frenemies. This was the first time I'd heard this blended word and it made me think about some of the other words that have been created out of two separate words. Most of you are probably familiar with brunch - a combination of breakfast and lunch. But have you heard of...

smog - a mix of smoke and fog
spork - a spoon-shaped fork
sitcom - a situation comedy
camcorder - a camera that records video
motel - a hotel for people that drive motors (cars)

Perhaps you could make up some of your own, and add them here by commenting on the post!

Friday, June 25, 2010

How do you fertilize your vocabulary?

One forgets words as one forgets names. One's vocabulary needs constant fertilizing or it will die.

This quote is from Evelyn Waugh, one of the great English novelists of last century. So he is a first language English speaker - who forgets words, and who believes that you need to continue to fertilize your vocabulary. What an interesting metaphor! What does it mean? And how exactly do you go about fertilizing your vocab?

For me, I guess reading is what fuels my vocabulary. I was reflecting the other day on how much my daughter's writing has improved since she has left school/study and been reading material that she chooses for herself. It's not just her writing, it's her vocab as well that has really developed. Having the right word to use in the right situation is a real joy, and gives you so many more ways of expressing yourself... as the quote below suggests.

I used to think I was poor. Then they told me I wasn't poor, I was needy. They told me it was self-defeating to think of myself as needy, I was deprived. Then they told me underprivileged was overused. I was disadvantaged. I still don't have a dime. But I have a great vocabulary.

Jules Feiffer - cartoon caption

So tell us how you 'feed' your vocab? Are you deliberate about it - regular feeding, or do you just do it occasionally when you remember? Feel free to add a comment to this posting.