Word-A-Day

For many years now, one of my standard holiday gifts to Kish has been a “word-a-day” calendar.  It’s a calendar that features a different, typically unusual word each day, gives you the definition and the pronunciation — if you can decipher those weird pronunciation symbols, that is — and then provides a quote that uses the word in a sentence.

It’s an interesting thing to check out each day, and a chance to engage in a little vocabulary building.  Typically the words on the calendar fall into three categories:  words we already know and use, words that you would never try to work into a conversation, and words that you actually think could become part of your standard word-stock.  The first category is easily the smallest in size, but when the calendar does use a word we already use — yesterday’s word, for example, was rarefied — you feel a certain sense of accomplishment.  The second category is the largest.  Sometimes the words are so technical that there really is no chance to use them in everyday conversation, and others are so high-falutin’ you can’t imagine dropping them into a discussion.  Tomorrow’s word, for example, is faineant, with an accent over the e, which means idle and ineffectual or indolent.  I doubt I could even pronounce that one properly, much less find an opportunity to use it correctly.

But the third category is why you buy the calendar.  Today’s word, quiddity, falls into that category.  My favorite recent word in that category is gorgonize, which means to have a paralyzing or mesmerizing effect, and is synonymous with stupefy or petrify.  I’m saving that one up for a choice opportunity — like when one of my friends tells a long-winded story about people I don’t know at lunch and I confess that their tale gorgonized me.

 

Attempting An Eclogue

For years, Kish has gotten a “word-a-day” calendar as a Christmas stocking stuffer.  The calendar gives you a word, its definition, and its pronunciation, and then uses the word in a sentence, like you’re the contestant in the national spelling bee.  It’s an interesting, relatively painless way to learn new words and build that personal vocabulary to ever more impressive heights, and occasionally — O, happy day! — the word is one you actually knew already.

afghan_shepherd_by_ironpaw1Sometimes, though, the words aren’t exactly easy to fit into everyday conversation.  On Monday, for example, the word was “eclogue.” What’s an eclogue (pronounced ek-log), you ask?  Why, it’s a poem in which shepherds converse, of course.  The sentence the calendar offers to illustrate its meaning is:  “The poet’s new volume offers modern translations of Virgil’s eclogues.”  Even at an erudite workplace like mine, it’s hard to imagine a discussion where you could smoothly use “eclogue.”

Although I can’t see ever using the word in actual conversation, and therefore am likely to promptly forget it, I thought it might be fun to try to write an eclogue, just to give ol’ Virgil a little competition.

A Brief Eclogue

Far out yonder, on grassy plain

Where sheep did graze, were shepherds twain

As they silently did walk

One shepherd felt the need to talk.

Said Shepherd One to Shepherd Two:

“It’s time for dinner.  I brought stew.

The sheep all graze o’er by the lake.

No wolf in sight.  Let’s take a break!”

Said Shepherd Two to Shepherd One:

“I’m sad to say that I’ve brought none.

I’ve got no food, but none the worse.

Let’s use our break, then, to converse.”

Said Shepherd One to Shepherd Two:

“I’d start, but I don’t have a clue

What we’d discuss, or what I’d say.

I’ve been out tending sheep all day.”

Said Shepherd Two to Shepherd One:

“There’s nothing new under the sun.

And what is new I won’t discuss.

Clinton and Trump just make me cuss!”

So shepherds two sat ‘neath a tree

And watched as sheep grazed peacefully

It wasn’t much of an eclogue

But ’twas enough to fill this blog.