The Eclectic Word Club

Good morning. It’s Wednesday again and time for my guest blogger, Rambler5319 to take over….

 

Are you a member of a club? If you are, why are you? I suppose, logically, you like the activities they do. It might be: a football club because you like football, a tennis club because you like to play tennis, a chess club because you like to play chess, a film club because you like to watch films and so on. These are all clubs where you know what they will be doing by their title.

However I wonder if you’ve ever thought of yourself as being in a club that you didn’t know you were a member of. Bit strange, eh? How could you be in a club or clubs but not know it? I think we all are! Thousands of them. How so? I hear you say.

To find out let’s go back to the clubs I mentioned at the start. People in those clubs have certain words they use which are particular to their activity. They will have special words which those in the “club” know but perhaps those outside don’t: a one-two in Football, roughing and trumping in Bridge, castling in Chess and so on. Some of us, who are not members of that club, may know these terms because we know people who use them or they’ve become used in everyday life but the more technical ones we probably don’t. You only learn them if you need to use them. So far so good.

Each person has a vocabulary of words they use every day in order to communicate. This vocabulary will vary depending on how many words you’ve learnt and whether you know their meanings. It will also depend on your age: young people use words older people don’t and vice versa, scientists use words non-scientists don’t. Words do come into and go out of fashion. You may use particular words to sound trendy (“right on”, “boss”, “cool”, fab etc) or maybe even to sound deliberately not trendy (“spokeshave”).

It’s important to use the correct terms otherwise you will not be able to communicate. Would you expect a mechanic in a garage where you take your car to refer to “the thing under the bonnet”? No, I think you’d expect him to say “the engine”. If there’s a right word use it but to use it you have to know it! And that’s where the learning comes in: get that dictionary out! Now you’re in the club that knows the word “engine” and so on up to the more complicated ones. You can communicate with other people who know the same word but not with those who don’t. Do you see what’s going on here? We’re in lots of these “clubs” but we may not be in all the same ones as our friends.

At the end of the day words are about communication so why use words that most people don’t know unless it’s to sound or look clever? For instance in the 1840s people would not have had a problem with Emily Bronte’s use of words like “asseverate” & “orison”, in Wuthering Heights, but how many of us today know their meaning? In this case you have two options: go and look them up in a dictionary so you know what they mean next time or just try and guess from the context (in which case you’ll never know for certain). If you don’t look them up – why don’t you? In fact why don’t you write them down so you’ll remember them. Now you’re in the “club” that knows what they mean.

The title of this blog gives a further clue. Eclectic is a word which crept into everyday use through music journalism and writers referring to people having “an eclectic taste” in music or an album having an “eclectic mix” of styles. You either look the word up or you don’t understand what they’re talking about. You will tend to pick the words you use based on the situation you’re in: are you speaking with customers, friends or work colleagues? In the container business, for example, you will hear words like Reefer (meaning a refrigerated container or trailer), High-Cube (meaning a container which is 9’6” high instead of an ordinary height of 8’6”) and Flat Rack (meaning a container with no sides or roof, so it just has the base and two ends). Each branch of the armed forces has special words and phrases they use. Each trade or craft also has specialised uses of words. You just have to learn them if you’re going to be able to communicate with others in the same business. You become part of a word club where particular words and language are used. You will also begin to use words that those around you use especially when moving (or travelling) to a new area or country: our cars have bonnets – American cars have hoods, our cars have boots – American cars have trunks, we put petrol in our cars – Americans put “gas” in theirs and so on.

I’m reading a book at the moment (about The Elizabethan period in English history) which, just this week, has given me six words I’ve not come across before: Scabrous, Tanistry, Gallowglasses, Seneschal, Rymor, Self-Exculpation. (My notebook which I’ve mentioned before that I write words in that I don’t know the meaning of is close to the 800 mark now.) So that’s six new clubs I’ve joined because, along with the author, I now know what they mean. And no I’m not telling you what they mean! If you don’t know them……. You know what’s coming next……go and get that dictionary! Find out!

One of the best investments I made was to purchase a dictionary app for my phone. It’s the same dictionary as the hardback paper version I have on my bookshelf but it cost one-sixth of the price and it is with me all the time. It’s also quicker than me at looking up stuff. Those of you with Kindles probably don’t need an app as it includes a dictionary. It’s just a matter of being prepared.

Being in word clubs is a lifelong experience because there are so many of them and new ones come along all the time. Will you join them (by getting that dictionary out) or will you walk past maybe just guessing what’s behind the door? The choice is yours. Have you come across any words you don’t know recently that you could share with us?

(Guest post by Rambler 5319)

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One response to this post.

  1. Great blog. The language used expresses the Weltanschauung of the people it relates to. Evidently amongst Arabs they have many words to describe camels, for instance the word that describes “A female camel that smells the water but often doesn’t drink it.”

    Reply

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