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.

Monday, May 3, 2010

More on being vague

Doing interviews with teachers I am amazed how much vague language we use. The sort ofs and kind ofs just bounce off our lips continually. It must be to do with how we present ourselves - a way of checking to see what our listener thinks of what we just said or not wanting to give a definite opinion, perhaps. What I found interesting as well, is that when I was transcribing I started to 'tune out' the sort ofs and the justs, and left them out when they didn't make any difference to the actual content. So the written word becomes more definite than the spoken linguistically as well as from a media perspective!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How long? Shortish.

We all do it! Use vague language that is.

I just found myself writing an email in which I said ' We'll need an hour' for a meeting, and then I went back and changed it to 'We'll need an hour-ish'. This means that the reader can expect that the meeting might take a tad longer than an hour, rather than me intending to finish within the hour. The '-ish' tag makes the word a bit more vague. However, using -ish with a noun is not very common.

-ish is usually added to adjectives, like tall or short. Nice example at shortish - notice that the example is in the context of speech. -ish is not common in writing. More sentence examples of shortish - again these are all examples from speaking (both formal and informal), but should give you a reasonable idea of where and how you might use 'shortish'.

This Linguarama page gives examples of vague language in relation to time and so on . If you're interested in vague language generally, you might enjoy real examples of vague language in academia.

And how many examples of vague language can you notice in this blog?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Moodle glossaries

I feel excited because I've been experimenting with a Moodle shell getting ready for when we move to this next semester. And I've just discovered the glossary and some of the different things that you can do with it - including image and sound files for instance. I also like the way that everyone in the course is able to comment on words or phrases. Fun, fun, fun!