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Thanks to my high school English teachers… August 28, 2009

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.
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In the comments, I just wrote that I have an expansive vocabulary. In general I gained little from my formal public-school education in junior and senior high (grades 7 through 12 for the Canadian readers, and now most likely called middle school and senior high in the US). The school was just not run to deal very well with someone like me, a person who had already read most of the topics and self-taught them – math, science, history, geography, even some literature. But the one area I do remember that high school helped me in was words. I had a series of teachers, Mrs. Fisk, Mrs. Turner, and Mrs. Jones who had us read the requisite literature – poems, essays, and short stories mostly, and then had us focus on certain words that were used – ones like ennui or hackneyed. We had to learn those. In those three years I learned a few hundred words, possibly even a thousand. But I developed the habits of using those,  paying attention to unfamiliar words in other reading, and learning their meanings, too.

Using these words generally comes naturally. It is the way I read, think, speak, and write. I like having choices where I can more exactly express myself. Do I do it to sounds educated? No, these touch on the precision and accuracy of what I am trying to convey. If there is any driving force other than that in using a wider range of words, it is thatr most writing and conversations do not use a lot of words that most people know. That style where people only use the limited number of most commonly-used words sounds and reads very flat to me. It does not paint the more detailed images I like. Most of the authors I like are wordsmiths for that same reason – John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Saul Bellow, Haruki Murakami all come to mind.

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