January 3, 2008

Lifelong Learning

I'm feeling grateful right now for two things: my dictionary and my curiosity. At my semi-advanced age I am pleased to announce that it is possible to learn new words every day--even if my primary reading materials during vacation have been the newspaper and Young Adult fiction. An article about an author in the LA Times referred to his insouciant wife. I had certainly heard and read this word before but to be honest I wasn't quite clear on the definition. Insouciant is an adjective meaning free from concern, worry, or anxiety; carefree; nonchalant. Don't think I'll be using this word in my own writing–it's not exactly a staple of Emelia's vocabulary–but at least I know what it means. I'll try to work into conversation at some point in the future, once I feel more confidence in my French pronunciation.

Mycology is a word I came across in Eva Ibbotson's young adult book, A Song for Summer, set in Europe during World War II. The "ology" part of the word I recognized as a branch of learning but I was clueless as to the definition of the entire word. Now, thanks to Dictionary.com I know that it is the branch of biology that deals with fungi. Don't think I'll have many opportunities to use this one either, but maybe I'll astound Paul some evening when we are watching Jeopardy. Who knows when a category on obscure branches of biology will appear? Hey, I just looked up Jeopardy in the dictionary and in addition to the standard definition of risk of loss or injury; peril or danger, the ancient origin of the word in French means "a divided game, game with even chances," from jeu "a game" (from L. jocus "jest") + parti, pp. of partir "to divide". Now I can't seem to stop...sorry.

Dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster Online have long been bookmarked on my computer but there is nothing like thumbing through the pages of a dictionary you've just grabbed off the shelf. Now, of course, I have to put on some reading glasses in order to read the definitions but I love the heft and feel of Paul's American Heritage Dictionary that he keeps in his office. It is a powerful book. And while curiosity may have killed the cat, it's a great gift for the rest of us.

P.S. (Not sure blogs have postscripts, but I'm going to put one in anyway.) Check out this list of 100 Words Every High School Graduate (and their parents, too) Should Know. I clearly have a lot more dictionary work to do!

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