Every now and then, you just have to teach your kid a big word. A little word won’t do.
Obviously, when discussing matters of religion, new vocabulary words like transubstantiation will eventually need defining. Perhaps your young man is into guns or crime shows or detective work. Ballistics might become part of his word list. And if your child is learning music theory, lots of long, foreign words like fortissississimo might be necessary to describe your child’s preferred style of expressing himself on the piano.
And sometimes, just regular conversation requires a good knock-out punch of a word. My parents always used big vocabulary words with us, and then directed us to the big dictionary to figure out what they meant. When big words started coming out of our mouths, they would praise us with, “That’s a fifty-cent word!” Eventually sophisticated vocabulary becomes a habit.
I often find myself using big words even though I know that the kids have no idea what I am saying. This most often happens when I’m getting excited about a topic, and the time space between my thought and the word coming out of my mouth is extremely brief. I’ll use the first words that come to mind, and they are often pretty hefty. Half the time the kids just ignore much of what I say and grasp the general meaning of my point. This worked to my great advantage once when I was pretty upset with the kids and started expressing in a loud and rapid manner exactly how I felt about their behavior. Out came one awful word, and I felt horrible and worried about using it – until I realized that nobody even noticed. They just thought mom had pulled out another big word that they hadn’t learned yet.
Recently in grammar, Fritz is learning about adjectives. One of the exercises is to list two adjectives for each of the nouns. Horse: spotted, small. Boy: tall, skinny. Boat: big, fast. Building: tall, window-y.
Nope. That just won’t do. Window-y doesn’t cut it. I could have left it at that and had him come up with another adjective, but I also think a kid needs to learn how to express himself. If he wants to point out that a building has windows (as compared to places like many army buildings that don’t), this is a legitimate requirement. If there happens to be a word that fits the bill, why shouldn’t I teach it to him?
And so, Fritz learned the word fenestrated yesterday. We admire the city skyline filled with tall, fenestrated buildings. The prisoners longed for a fenestrated barracks so they would know when it was day or night. Fortunately, his grammar worksheet wasn’t being turned into a teacher who might think he was making things up. That happened to my nephew, Jack, whose third grade teacher, apparently unfamiliar with Lemony Snickett’s Series of Unfortunate Events, told him that penultimate was not a word. Ignorance is my penultimate pet peeve; arrogance is the trait I despise the most.