“All words are pegs to hang ideas on.” – Henry Ward Beecher (Proverb from Plymouth Pulpit, 1887)
If you’ve been reading Word to the Wise every day, you’ve been enriching your vocabulary. You know the meaning of “gestalt,” “feckless,” and “avuncular” — but are you actually using these words?
Having a good passive vocabulary is enormously helpful. Your reading moves quickly and without interruptions. You understand everything that is said to you. You never feel foolish because you don’t want to admit you don’t understand what was just said.
But a passive vocabulary is not enough. If you want to feel the power of language, you have to start working these wonderful words into your daily speech. When you are able to use the “juste mot” for every occasion, you will speak with more confidence and the people who listen to you will recognize you as an educated person.
But even if you don’t need any more recognition, and even if you feel confident in your language skills already, having a wider active vocabulary makes speaking more fun.
So please do this today. Think of each new word as an arrow in your verbal arsenal. Imagine a mental quiver in your brain that is ever expanding.
Make a commitment to activate each new word you learn. You can do this by saying it several times within 12 to 24 hours of learning it. It will be a bit awkward at first. You’ll have to work pretty hard to squeeze your new word into an unrelated conversation. But after a few days of practice, it will become more natural. Pretty soon, no one will know you are doing it but you.[Ed. Note. Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]