As always, I walked my dogs yesterday. Except that it’s more a stroll since they stop constantly to smell the ‘next best thing’.

I happened to pass two roadside workers who were chatting. Perhaps they were talking, conversing or, more probably, whinging. I say that (or perhaps decry or profess it) because every second word seemed to be an ugly expletive. Now while expletives can certainly be expressive, overuse is nothing short of boring and offensive.

It's more a stroll or amble than a walk, since the dogs need to constantly smell the 'next best thing'.
It’s more a stroll or amble than a walk, since the dogs need to constantly smell the ‘next best thing’.

From boring to exciting – it’s in the words!

There are close to 230,000 entries in the full version of the Oxford Dictionary. Yet most of us get by using just 3,000 words 95% of the time. Or, in the case of the above-mentioned workers, a couple of dozen!

Yet the English language is so incredibly expressive! It can be used to convey the most subtle hues and emotions, each conjuring up mental images that can be near photographic.

Some languages have a single word for green. We have a near unlimited choice. Just consider these simple options: Jade, asparagus, avocado, moss, pine, celadon, teal, olive, mint, emerald, and fern. Each conjures up a different shade of that one color – green.

Why then, do so many of us use generic words in our conversation? Generic? Do I mean nondescript? Bland? Even boring? Why use a generalization when you can be far more specific… and communicative.

Do you walk or do you stride, stroll, amble, trudge, strut, or saunter? These last six verbs are all capable of painting mental scenes, but does ‘walk’?

Try these next 16 examples

Good:

Great, delightful, excellent, grand, superb, splendid, marvelous, superior, amazing, wonderful

Bad:

Abhorent, sinister, obscene, vile, dreadful, wicked, nasty, despicable, brutal, terrible, atrocious

Happy:

Joyful, glad, elated, delighted, jubilant, thrilled, jovial, merry, contented, pleased, cheerful
Joyful, glad, elated, delighted, jubilant, thrilled, jovial, merry, contented, pleased or cheerful? I vote for contented!

Sad:

Melancholy, forlorn, unloved, dejected, woeful, depressed, sorrowful, mournful, down and even, unhappy

Nice:

Thoughtful, kind, benevolent, congenial, agreeable, gracious, considerate, cordial, warm, decent

Like:

Admire, prefer, treasure, enjoy, care for, love, idolize, fancy, adore, appreciate, favor

Laughed:

Chortled, roared, crowed, bellowed, howled, cackled, snickered, giggled, chuckled, guffawed
He chortled, roared, crowed, bellowed, howled, cackled, snickered, giggled, chuckled or guffawed! You decide.

Big:

Gigantic, huge, towering, mammoth, enormous, tremendous, giant, colossal, immense

Little:

Diminutive, compact, tiny, teeny, petite, miniature, small, slight, minute, miniscule

Funny:

Silly, nonsensical, sidesplitting, hilarious, jocular, witty, comical, farcical, humorous

Pretty:

Gorgeous, lovely, glamorous, striking, exquisite, beautiful, fetching, stunning, cute

Handsome:

Good-looking, attractive, spunky, hot, striking, attractive, hunky, imposing, athletic, suave or stylish?
Good-looking, attractive, spunky, hot, striking, attractive, hunky, imposing, athletic, suave or stylish?

Saw:

Watched, glimpsed, examined, gazed at, spied, noticed, spotted, eyed, observed, stared at, glanced at

Clever:

Smart, witty, wise, gifted, intelligent, brainy, quick-witted, ingenious, sharp, brilliant, knowledgeable

Said:

Remarked, exclaimed, stated, demanded, cried, called, replied, whispered, shouted, responded

Boring 🙂 :

Tedious, repetitive, monotonous, dull, colorless, sterile, conventional, ordinary, unimaginative, bland, unexciting, commonplace, soulless, featureless, passionless, uninspiring, mundane, insipid, wishy-washy, mechanical, anaemic, banal… and tiring if I keep listing the many alternatives to this one, simple, over-used word!

Ways your child can build a powerful vocabulary

It’s essential that we help our kids develop a meaningful, comprehensive vocabulary. It’s the key to powerful, accurate communication.

Of course, reading is a wonderful way to build your lexicon (just had to squeeze that word in). But our kids are reading less and less as digital devices consume ever-increasing amounts of their time.

Why not create a daily challenge by choosing two words and getting the kids to (ideally) thumb through a physical dictionary to explain the meaning, synonyms and antonyms to you? Every member of your family will benefit including you.

What do you think? Are you happy with a 3,000 word vocab or do you also mourn the loss of descriptive conversation?

 

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