Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
I’m caught out a lot in my misuse or lack of knowledge of the English language. I have a strong vocabulary, my resume is that of a highly educated middle aged man and I’ve been a reader for most of my adult life; but vocabulary and language aren’t as black and white as knowing or not knowing a series of words. Language encompasses more than a vocabulary stapled to the framework of good grammar.
Consider for a moment what we would consider to be our vocabulary. That portion of the language we’re able to use in some legitimate context. The words we know.
Within that vocabulary are words we know how to spell and use in context. If, at any point, someone were to challenge us on a given word there would be an instant response. We know this subset of our vocabulary and can prove that knowledge.
Also within our vocabulary are the words that exist in a grey area. They’re words we think we know. We use these words every other day. But when we’re challenged to precisely explain definitions the knowledge escapes us. We reach for dictionaries to explain the meaning. We can’t put the definition into other words, although we understand the context of everyday usage.