by Shanyn Hosier
First of all, allow me to apologize for putting that Sir Mix-A-Lot song in your head.
But I, too, must confess that I adore big, fancy words. One of the greatest joys of reading, for me, is when I come across a fat, juicy, unusual word. Sometimes it’s a word I’ve read before but don’t think of often, and seeing it again is like spotting a flashy bird or attractive guy. Ooh, remember that one! I tell myself, tucking it away in my mental word bank. Better yet is an unfamiliar word. To the dictionary! I cry like a superhero bounding off, itching to learn what it means.
Like a word-junkie, I’m constantly looking up words. My favorite online dictionary: Merriam-Webster.com—I geek out over the etymology factoids. I can get lost for hours down the rabbit-hole of Thesaurus.com, searching for just the right word. When it comes to phrases and idioms, TheFreeDictionary.com is my go-to place, and I’m consistently surprised to learn how many common phrases don’t mean what I thought they did. And when it comes to modern American slang, there’s no place like UrbanDictionary.com. (Warning: it’s not for the faint of heart—you can’t un-learn some of these terms.)
My enamoration with vocabulary at times gets me in trouble with my critique partners (and spellcheck applications—this one, for instance, isn’t recognizing enamoration… Curse you, red underline!). And I can appreciate my CPs’ concerns: pausing to look up an unfamiliar word does tend to interrupt the flow of prose. As a writer, I’m always struggling to balance efficiency and clarity with my joy in sharing an unusual term with my readers.
Which is why Kindle’s instant dictionary is one of my favorite applications on the planet! I squee with delight whenever I come across a new word. Literally at my fingertips lies the answer! For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, highlight a word (Kindle Fire users can just touch it!) the next time you’re devouring an ebook and see what happens.
If you’ve got a good word site to share, please let me know in the comments. And, if you really want to show me some love, tell me your favorite word (definition optional).
For more fun with big words, check out Mark Bowden’s “In Praise of Fancy Words” published in The Atlantic, December 2013.