Change

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Turning Over New Leaf

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Prodigious, Preeminent, and Phenomenal

cool
A Generational Word Used on the Curriculum Vitae of the Unemployed
 
Although I am primarily a nonfiction writer, I have always appreciated the value of the adjective. Simply relating boring facts and statistics does not entice readers to purchase an author’s books.
However, while adjectives comprise part of the stock-in-trade of the author, they are essential communication tools for everyone in society. The lack of ability to communicate through words in the U.S.A. today is alarming.
Take the time to listen to your children. Ask them how they feel about something good that occurs in their lives. Undoubtedly, they will respond, “Awesome.” Ask them about their visit to Disney World and they will reply, “Incredible.” Ask them their thoughts about Carrie Underwood’s latest album and you will hear, “Amazing.” Why? Because amazing, awesome, and incredible are the only words they use to describe any situation in 2013, and those words communicate nothing.
It is not only our children compressed into a vocabulary vacuum. Pay attention to celebrities on TV. Listen to them describe anything. All things are always amazing. Tune into a game show. Listen to the winning contestant describe the victorious feeling: Awesome!
In so many of our public schools today, vocabulary skills are a requirement for teachers so their contracts might be renewed. They are typically given 1500 or so words picked by paper-pushing bureaucrats and directed to cover them in class. The usual way of doing so is to print out a list of words for the week, have their students memorize the definitions, and test them on Friday. As the students exit the classroom, the weekly word list is round filed.
Good teachers use vocabulary words all year long. Essential vocabulary must be placed in context so students commit their use to memory without the weekly exercise in futility. Mention a word like plethora in class daily, and students will begin to amass a vast, useful vocabulary for life.
It is a pleasure to hear your child express joy after hitting that Little League home run by exclaiming, “It could possibly be the self-esteem motivator I needed,” rather than “It was amazing.”
Maybe, I ask too much, and perhaps I am old school, but that is one simple method the public should insist upon infusing into the American education system to change the future for our children in a positive way. Spellchecking via computer is damaging their ability to think independently. And that is incredible.
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17 comments:

  1. So true. I used to spend summers with my kids trying to make up for the lack of grammar and vocabulary skills taught during the school year. Well, we worked on these skills all year really, but with some concentrated effort in the summer.

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    1. Galen: Yes, and I'm sure it was successful. They should get the same treatment in school.

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  2. I'm grateful for spell check JJ. I use it regularly. While there is nothing lacking in my vocabulary (private school with school wide word-of-the-day vocabulary discussions, avid reader, pension for writing and consequently regular use of a dictionary and thesaurus), I'm hearing impaired which affected how I heard words pronounced. Spell check helps, incomplete as it is.

    How children answer depends on how they are asked. A short question gets a short answer. How was school? Gets, "fine." Sharing information gets information sharing. Using our vocabularies in our conversations with our kids, both teaches and gets them to use what they pick from us in conversations. Baby talk wasn't in my house. I spoke to my children as I would speak to you.

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    1. Linda: Spellcheck is terrific. It is just not the way to teach children how to spell. Also, when kids have the support at home, as yours obviously did, they are way ahead of the game. Unfortunately, that widespread parental support is waning in our society.

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  3. Hahahaha. You used the word plethora. That is one of my all-time favorite words. I love to use it whenever possible. It is shocking how many people are dumbfounded by it. I don't know how many people have asked me what it meant. And I love to tell them and suggest that they use it often!

    Education is less and less about teaching and more about checking things off on that To Do List. It is all prep for that Standardized Test. And that is DISTURBING.

    In other news, I tagged you out on the Thursday post. I don't know if you saw it and hated it or just missed it. Hope it was the latter...

    Happy Sunday from Vegas!

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    1. Robin: Well-put. Teaching has become a To Do List.

      BTW, I always love your Thursday posts. Even the ones on Friday!

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  4. It is annoying to hear the same word used to describe everything that happens in life. I do love variety and when I've heard something on every channel, in every internet story and from every conversation on the street I know it is time to avoid that verbiage at all cost!

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  5. I agree completely with you. But, I myself use those same words, a bit too much, and I confess it's when I'm in a hurry with many blogs to read (like in Sepia Saturday) and it was interesting for me to take a few grandchildren along on a family road trip (we just arrived back home last night) and for me to notice what got their attention and what didn't. Our third grader took in every sight he could as we drove and I filled in many of the blanks from the Old Sears tower to why are we paying to drive here Grandma? My youngest grandchild, Karina when we ask how her food tastes her reply is "delicious!" She just turned 3!

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    1. Karen: I use them too, but like you, I have a couple of different words in my arsenal as well. As for the young ones, nurture them before they get to high school!

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    2. I am already, it's an awesomely (Ha! Ha!) stupendous idea to guide now. If you are a Mary Poppins fan at all, you will enjoy the movie coming out this Christmas, Saving Mr. Banks, and how author P.L. Travers had to fight with Disney to keep her words accurate for the children. Here's the link
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5kYmrjongg

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  6. I love learning new words every single day of my life. I write them down and memorize them. Languages are so vast... I also find that doing this has a positive impact on my mind, and then I find it easier to learn other things that are not related to language.
    Learning a language is an endless process. It ends when we die. It is fascinating.
    (I still use the words amazing, awesome and incredible when I comment on blog posts or talk to people, though).

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    1. Julia: That is a great method. Indeed, language is an endless process, and you use it well (except apparently when your blog!). Seriously though, you are so right. Language has a positive impact on the mind.

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  7. Hi JJ .. sadly there is much missing in today's fast age - the worrying thing is about the ability to concentrate for longer than a few seconds - before the twitch sets in to text. What are they texting about ... and language well that's another matter ...

    Descriptive passages are wonderful, where we can feel the sun beating down warming our skin, or the autumnal leaves scrunch, releasing their earthy pungent scent reminding us of nuts, mellow fruitfulness et al ...

    Bringing readers into our world for those moments ... good post to bring up ..

    I am amazed how little people appear to know - or perhaps more importantly want to know .. and don't actually look things up themselves .. or for that matter look at the other side of the coin and see the other point of view.

    Interesting - that's a word I use too often .. and this one - cheers Hilary

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    1. Hilary: To an oft-frustrated educator, your words are refreshing. Cheers.

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  8. Reminds me of something I haven't thought about in years. When I was young and in the early years of marriage, we lived in a suburb where neighbors were about the same as we were. Young mothers with 3 or 4 little kids stayed at home all day because there was only one car in the family. There were 6 of us young gals who wanted to better ourselves so we met 3 afternoons a week while our kids napped. Each person took a category of their interest, looked up new info and taught the others. Words was one category and we learned the new words from the old Readers Digest. That is where I learned plethora. Also one of the gals had studied opera and that was where I got my love for opera..... as I know you have too. We also studied history, fashion and did exercise. Kind of a young mother's finishing school. LOL

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  9. I agree with you about spellcheck, though it has become a crutch for me as well. Some words just don't seem to look right anymore, and I am constantly double checking them. I still say words like amazing when I'm blogging. I try to switch things up, but stick to old standards like great and wonderful.

    Julie

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