Occasionally my fantasies include teaching a high school English course. (Is there any greater admission of nerdhood?)
I imagine how I would present the all-important lessons designed to develop a rich vocabulary, vital not only because an enhancement of one’s lexicon is generally recognized as a key to increasing intelligence, but also because I totally dig words.
Having a wider range of vocabulary seems to be especially vital in our modern world where language as dictated by pop culture becomes formulaic. “I’m lovin’ it!” LOL BTW, “Don’t just buy stuff- do stuff.”
However, despite its power, vocab seems to be almost universally hated and resisted by students.
Perhaps a handout would convince them:
Reasons to apply yourself to the study of vocabulary:
- To impress your girl-/boyfriend’s parents
- To impress a potential employer
- To be able to understand people who are smarter than you, or think they are, who are trying to manipulate you in person, in writing, or in a speech
- To think deeper thoughts
Though I know the students would categorically refuse to be persuaded by any amount of reasoning, I myself find the last reason to be the most compelling.
Peter Gabriel expressed the idea on his album, “So.”
“The place where I come from is a small town/they think so small/they use small words/-but not me/I’m smarter than that/I worked it out/I’ve been stretching my mouth/to let those big words come right out”
No offense to small towns. I’ve spent some good years in a few small towns. But you have to admit the perspective tends to be on the narrow side. Though I believe the song has a sarcastic, almost satirical edge, still there is a grain of truth — when you use exclusively small words, you tend to think small, that is, shallow thoughts. There is no nuance to the representation of your ideas, if indeed they are ideas and not just thoughtlessly repeated cliché. IDK “Live well.” WTF
In his novel “1984” George Orwell told of Big Brother who sought to abolish “Oldspeak,” which is English as we speak it. “It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought… should be literally unthinkable… Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum.”
Students who refuse to learn “big words” are unwittingly participating in this narrowing of thought; with fewer shapes to use, when we fit the pieces of life’s puzzle together, we can only create the same old tired designs.
Thus we must encourage the enthusiastic scholarship that seeks to master the utilization of a cornucopia of expressive terminology, that our most intimate mental machinations may emerge fully illuminated.
Or else, we all may as well speak in trademarked slogans with our brains turned off.
OMG. Just do it.