Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Learning new words is good exercise for the brain

A recent study shows how we learn vocabulary and new words throughout our lives. We have to keep learning, it keeps our minds young too.   - - Donna Poisl

By Greg Hill / At the Library

FAIRBANKS - Certain parts of the English vocabulary seem geographically predisposed. For example, to my ear, “metropolitan,” “youse,” and “commuter train” smack of East Coast urban life, though pertaining to other regions as well. “Sashay,” on the other hand, evokes a drowsy summer day in the South, as do “mosey” and “saunter.” I’m a child of the South and was chagrined to plead ignorance when asked to distinguish between “sashay,” “mosey,” and “saunter.” Fortunately, there’s no shame in ignorance if you do something about it. I did and now know “sashay” is from the French “chasse” ballet movement, “saunter” is “probably from the Middle English ‘santren,’ ‘to muse,’” but “mosey” is more local, deriving from “vamos,” Mexican Spanish for “we go.”

Moreover, sashayers “strut or move in a showy manner,” while saunterers “stroll at a leisurely pace” and moseyers “stroll in no particular hurry.” And what about their verbal cousins? Amblers take “a leisurely, pleasurable walk,” rambler’s tend to “go on and on,” and gallivanters “meander from one place to another in search of fun.” Knowing the fine distinctions between similar terms enables writers to paint effective word-pictures that similarly-skilled readers can appreciate. But how does one acquire those more esoteric words in the first place?
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