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In Search of “Le mot juste”

Posted on June 07, 2011 @ 2:29 PM in Uncategorized

Sometimes I feel like “The Waco Kid” in Mel Brooks’ parody, Blazing Saddles. One scene in this hilarious, MOST politically incorrect movie has Gene Wilder’s character, Jim, talking about the downside of being the fastest draw in the West.

He explains how tired he’d grown of constantly being challenged to a duel no matter where he went. One day, someone called out from behind him, “Reach for it, mister!”

He spun around and drew his gun on a six-year-old kid. He holstered his gun, turned his back and walked away. “Then,” he said, “the little bastard shot me in the ass!”

Why Do I Relate to The Waco Kid?

When people find out that I write for a living, they challenge me on points of grammar, usage and vocabulary. I wonder…will they shoot me in the backside if I don’t get the answer right?

Such verbal taunts are excellent, though. Explain something to someone else and your own thinking becomes clearer.

There are well over 500,000 words in the English language. Over a million, by some estimates. Scores of new ones are added every day. Shakespeare alone coined thousands.

Le mot juste. The Perfect Word

No wonder it’s hard to find the right words, with so many to choose from! When you get it right, though, you just know it. Deep in your heart and soul.

Good writing requires a rich, active vocabulary. It’s boring to read the same words over and over, especially if a certain word can convey precisely the meaning you intend.

How to Improve Your Vocabulary

The best way to improve your vocabulary is to read a wide variety of material. And read it ACTIVELY. That means visualizing the words and looking up words you don’t know.

It’s estimated that, 60% of the time, you can correctly guess the meaning of a word by breaking it down into syllables. If you happen to know another language, this becomes even easier.

It’s not enough to know the definition of a word. You also have to understand how it works in a given context. Write a sentence using the new word to check your understanding. Then read it aloud. Aural input will help you remember it better.

Enriching your vocabulary enables you to communicate more effectively, both orally and in writing. It can boost your confidence.

And you’ll enjoy movies like Blazing Saddles a lot more when the one-liners, picture jokes and “groaner” puns aren’t flying over your head!

What new words have you learned lately?
Do you consciously add to your vocabulary? How?
Got any funny examples of words used incorrectly?

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