The ideas for this post have been simmering on a back burner in my noggin for about a month now.
That’s because I had decided I really should commemorate the second anniversary of my WordPress blog “Walkin’, Writin’, Wit & Whimsy” which I began on February 11, 2013.
As to today’s post, I had a few ideas in mind and several catchy headlines as well. I debated – shall I entitle it “Words with Friends” or “Noodling Around” ? Well, I finally settled on “Alphabet Soup” because eating Campbell’s Alphabet Soup was one of the first ways I learned to create words. The rest is just history.
Before I ever walked into kindergarten, I had several years of schooling under my belt, courtesy of my parents – mostly my mom. I don’t remember there ever being a school program called preschool per se back in the late 50s. I know I never attended preschool; I started kindergarten at age five in September 1961.
But my mom taught me a wealth of information about the three Rs long before I started my formal education via daily afternoon reading, writing and math sessions.
As to readin’, well – both my parents were avid readers, and I would sit alongside them on a small chair, legs straight out in front as they didn’t yet touch the ground. My head would be bent over while reading one of my “Golden Books” which I kept in my book basket next to my chair, while my folks would be immersed in a newspaper or a paperback. Growing up it was a little like being in a library sometimes in the living room at our house.
As to writin’, Mom expanded my vocabulary by writing out a daily word list every afternoon. I had to learn that group of words and how to spell them. Sometimes she’d make it even tougher and I’d have to learn synonyms or antonyms for each word on my vocabulary and spelling list.
And, it was my mom that really readied me for school by teaching me ‘rithmetic by using matchsticks or an abacus, and … occasionally, even candy-covered chocolates called “Smarties”, to learn math fundamentals.
There was clearly no rest for the weary.
But her diligence paid off once I started school. I was reading and writing above my grade level and I have my mom to thank for that.
As to words – even though I like throwing an unusual word in a post every so often, I am not as committed to learning new vocabulary words as my boss. Being a wordsmith has been a hobby of his since his youth when his father forced him and his brothers to memorize pages out of “The Oxford English Dictionary”. To this day, Robb goes out of his way to use the most arcane and even archaic words in his writing and speech.
I like the Merriam-Webster site to learn new words and take their word quizzes. Sometimes I’ll shoot over to that site and give it a whirl when I have a few minutes, or, I like to check out their trending word of the day to see if I know the definition.
At year-end, alot of organizations compile and circulate lists of words . I get a kick out of perusing the year’s most popular, or overused and abused, or outrageous words.
I usually pick up a new word or two from my college alma mater, Wayne State University, whose WSU Word Warriors annually circulates their chosen list of words that should be re-introduced into our spoken and written language. For example, I learned that one of my favorite pastimes was to “obambulate”. Well “obambulate” is something I try to do as much as possible and document it in this forum. Hint … it has nothing to do with our 44th president. It simply means to walk about.
The Word Warriors suggested another word, which I’m dying to use, but haven’t had the occasion yet. That word is “flapdoodle”, which is a fun word meaning nonsense (though it sounds more like a surly rooster). It’s kind of hard to insert “flapdoodle” into a conversation around the proverbial water cooler. Maybe it is true that you can teach an old dog new tricks … if you become an opsimath, then you will study and learn new things in your golden years.
The most I learned about new words, English or otherwise, was when I studied French through the years. Immersed in a foreign language, I learned alot about our own English language, especially grammar, and I had a class where we spoke no English at all for two semesters. I hardly remember much French now though – you really have to use it on a regular basis and besides … I never got the hang of trilling my Rs.
Alot of new words are to be gleaned by reading. I used to read a book a week back when I commuted to school and to work in Detroit by bus for some three decades. I was a literature minor in college and I also took the bus while attending school, so reading and riding were synonymous for me.
Now that e-readers and their digital libraries are so popular today, turning the pages of a real book in your hand may one day be a distant memory. It is difficult now to even remember the joy of being in a book-of-the-month club, and the privileges of getting best sellers “hot off the press”. I once had a co-worker who belonged to Doubleday book club and she ordered hard-cover books to arrive at her home as soon as they were published. I think she was either a speed reader or she just immersed herself so completely into a book that she would not tear herself away from it until she reached the last page. With today’s e-readers, it seems incomprehensible to people that they would anxiously wait on the mailman to deliver a hot new bestseller to their door. My co-worker Debbie prided herself on her extensive hard-cover library. My mom and I subscribed to alot of magazines at that time, so we exchanged these for a read of each of Debbie’s hard-cover books.
Now that I’m not riding the bus, and working from home, I’ve fallen way behind in my reading. I’ve let all the magazine subscriptions lapse … except AARP. I cancelled the newspaper after my mom passed away as I had never read the paper – she would read it cover to cover daily. I even tried the e-edition, but having my eyes darting from side-to-side to read the pdf format was too much effort. I don’t even get the local paper anymore. Instead I get my news tidbits on the all-news radio station and the rest of the news stories from the national or local internet sites.
By not reading as much printed matter anymore, it made me wonder how I would keep my vocabulary “up” when I transitioned from working to retirement. But, since I started my blog two years ago, I’ve written 525 posts to date. I often muse how I have come up with that much chatter; I guess I’m certainly not at a loss for words.
I’ve learned alot of words and their meanings since writing a blog. In fact, some words, expressions or phrases that I THOUGHT I KNEW, it turns out I was badly mistaken. I might have misspoken many times through the years. Oops!! I only thought I was using the word correctly beforehand. Thus, the Merriam-Webster online dictionary has become my friend so I ensure I’m using the proper word, or, occasionally to fact check something that just doesn’t look right. Occasionally I even check out “Urban Dictionary” – there I often find I am waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay off base and have to abandon my chosen word (much as I like it) and find another word.
My friend Marge recently got a new dog – a Chihuahua mix. I quipped to her that I had to look up the word “Chihuahua” in the dictionary to ensure that the spellcheck did not go wacky and give it an off-the-wall spelling when I wrote her an e-mail about her dog Woody. I said “when you’re young people encourage you to look up how to spell words in the dictionary … query: how can you do that if you don’t have a clue how to spell it?”
This blog has been a real learning experience for me – from my fledgling efforts to the longer posts I write like today’s. Who knew all those years ago after Mom would say “look at your spoon Linda – can you form a word?” That *&^% soup got cold but I learned alot of new vocabulary words that way back in the day.
As to the soup aspect, as I said this blog post idea had been simmering for a while. I added some words, and thoughts along the way – now it’s finished. Sit down a spell and I hope you enjoy it.