WordWordWordWord Each Day is a vocabulary-enhancement system devised to improve language comprehension. I developed the system in University after coming to terms with my own linguistic ignorance. Here is its origin.
It was my study of Philosophy, that dubious meta-science that society loves to disparage, wherein I found my education lacking. Philosophy, especially ethics, presents the student with a uniquely challenging array of authors. Before then, I thought myself capable of easily arresting the theme and intent of a given work. General word comprehension had never been an issue.
Thus, I was greatly shocked by the complexity of language use, specifically depth of meaning being alluded to in so many texts. I read many chapters two or three times, and yet still failed to ascertain the ideas presented. It wasn’t the depth of the thought that held me back, but rather, the precision of the language that the authors used. I simply did not have the vocabulary I needed.
It started with an unknown word here and there. But the scripts soon devolved into a deluge of technical terminology with such complex use that quickly fell behind. Stubborn as I am, I refused to acknowledge the mounting evidence that I was insufficiently prepared. I coped by employing that old tactic we are all taught in elementary school: guessing at a term’s meaning by way of “context clues.” The sort of method that can be effective when taking a multiple-choice exam.
As it tunred out, Kant, Hume, Spinoza, and all the other suppposedly 'great' philosophers, had utterly failed to provide definition choices to augment their texts however! I found to my great dismay, that the strategy of using context clues was, when employed on text of any depth, inimical to comprehension. Guess work is approximate at best, and the only thing worse than having no knowledge is having false knowledge.
Definition vs. Meaning
I also realized that even if I did resort to a dictionary, the result rarely helped foster true understanding. Word meanings are often layered and complex. The definitions presented by dictionaries do not address the word’s past usage, etymological history, metaphorical and symbolic value: its meta-definition.
For Example, imagine you hear the following exclamation:
“The boss demanded I come in on Saturday, again! Why does he have to be such a Nazi?”
If you were somehow unaware of the term “Nazi,” you might Google it and see the following:
Nazi; plural noun: Nazis 1. a member of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.-a member of an organization with ideology similar to Nazism.
-derogatory a person who holds and acts brutally in accordance with extreme racist or authoritarian views.
While not an entirely false rendering of the term, that definition does not and cannot connote all the different ideas and subtle understandings that accompany the word “Nazi.”
The term, at this point in human history, carries so much implied meaning that no simple definition will do it justice. It requires a historical analysis more becoming of an encyclopedia than a dictionary.
All words in the English language work this way. They all have layers upon layers of meaning, and how much you understand, depends upon how many different layers you are aware of. Putting my ego aside for a bit, I admitted to myself that I must become more acquainted with not only the words I didn’t know, but many of those that I thought I already knew.
Thus I devised a program to increase my word knowledge. During each reading session, I would meticulously underline any word whose definition I did not feel extremely comfortable with. Afterward, I wrote each word in a small journal then proceeded to study its definition. I checked several dictionaries and encyclopedias, fascinated at the slight differences they betrayed. Etymology, the study of word origins, I found to be the tool of most effect.
Many words in our language have strayed greatly from their initial function; the only way to find their root meaning or implication requires study of origin. I looked for the words’ usage in actual writing as well. This was an important step; unlike example sentences presented in dictionaries, actual literature makes use of complex structure and implied meanings, which is what I was after all along. Within a semester, my vocabulary skills had improved immensely and I was able to capture concepts that had hitherto eluded me.
One Word Each Day is the continuation of that work. I choose the words from my own reading and will often include a excerpt for context. In some cases the words’ definition is completely unknown to me, or its meaning is not obvious. On occasion I will include common terms whose use is too-often misconstrued by myself or the lay-reader.
Please know that I am not a professional in the language arts, nor do I claim to be an expert. If you can provide further enlightenment on any particular word I present in One Word Each Day, I humbly request you do so via the comments section or by sending me an email.