Words-love them, hate them, but do we truly understand them?

 

 Words are wonderful, but can also be terrible. They can be simple or complex, but they are not easy for most people to understand. We may love words, but picking the exact right one still plagues writers, poets.

Loving words, I know how lacking in variety and depth my personal vocabulary is most of the time. Occasionally, a word comes to me while writing and I am happy I made its acquaintance before and can put it to use. More often the discovery of actually understanding a word comes while reading. Still I am amazed when I have rightly guessed or actually known a less than popular word.

Words can be so confusing when they mean so many different variants of the same thought such as the word ‘intellectual.’ I always thought I understood that word perfectly but gave it some twists of my own which are not necessarily correct. An intellectual, to me, has always been someone who excelled at using their mind. They were in possession of an extremely rare gift of understanding the most difficult concepts and being able to use their intellect in superior ways. I thought they were on a pedestal far above the best students and at the very top of the hierarchy of smart.

While checking the word for definitions, it mentioned anyone using their intellect such as a writer or teacher is considered an intellectual. Well, there goes my long held theory blown to bits. I will shyly call myself a writer because I actually do write. No room to explore whether it is worthwhile or not or read and valued by others, just the fact that I write makes me an intellectual according to this dictionary.

Not only the fact that a writer or teacher can be considered an intellectual; according to this same dictionary, anyone who highly values a good mind is also considered an intellectual. Now, how does that differentiate between us common folk and the advanced student who excels and understands almost everything they learn? It doesn’t, but the same word expresses so many different things that confusion abounds when trying to decipher many words. How then can a writer convey the exact message they wish to send the reader? How can we paint the exact picture we wish someone else to see upon hearing our words? If one word means so many different things, it seems to me that the writer has a challenging problem to say what they mean.

Another misconception for me of an intellect is someone who uses long, uncommon words and uses them so well. When we are told that on the Internet, the average reading level can be at a fourth grade level and that is what we should write to, how can we be an intellectual and still accomplish that goal? When I write online and use a word that is not usual, I immediately think I am not making my writing clear for the ‘unwashed masses.’ Not every person has a great vocabulary. I often find myself, changing a word and making it less interesting but more easily understood by others. In order for readers to grow and improve, they must learn new words, we all should, but then can that force a reader to stop reading your writing, thinking it too hard a challenge?

Poets are the brave ones when it comes to being able to write at a higher level and still goading us on to understand the word that they used because it was just right, not because it was easy.

I also find myself if not wholly disregarding the chosen words to be replaced for clarity, then limiting myself in how many high sounding words I pepper into a single piece of writing. This sounds even stranger when I write this down, but yet I think it is the truth and I’m always hungering after the truth.

The beauty of words is that there are so many and if we strive to learn a great amount of them, we may find that perfect word that adds the right touch to our writing, but we will always still be stuck with words that mean too many things like ‘intellectual.’

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8 thoughts on “Words-love them, hate them, but do we truly understand them?

  1. I don’t mind having to occasionally look up an unfamiliar word but having to do it once each paragraph is tedious. Nothing gets me to give up on a book quicker.
    On the other hand I love to learn, so thank you for the definition of intellectual. Apparently I’ve never looked it up either.

    Like

  2. Great post, Joan. As a non-native English speaker I’ve discovered new words through my reading and … my dictionary.
    I still use my dictionary over Google when I look for synonyms for example.
    The greatest pleasure for a writer is indeed to find the perfect word and to be able to use it in an unusual way.
    Thanks again.

    Like

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