Today’s word: Vocabulary
When I was in grade school, a very long time ago, we had vocabulary tests. The teacher would assign a list of about ten words at the beginning of each week and we would be required to look up each word in the dictionary, write down and memorize the meaning of the word, and learn how to spell it correctly. Every Friday we would have a vocabulary test for which the teacher would pronounce the word and we would have to write it down with correct spelling and a brief definition. When the words “vocabulary test” were heard each Friday, you could hear the collective groan of almost every student in the room. Would it surprise you to know that I loved vocabulary tests? Somehow, that did nothing to improve my popularity with my classmates.
Occasionally, when there was a little extra time, we also had spelling bees. I’m sure you’ve all heard of spelling bees; they were featured on such television series as “Little House On the Prairie.” This was, of course, another activity that I looked forward to with pleasure. Yes, part of it was because I almost always won; if I lost I spent the day in a funk. But much of it was that even then I loved hanging around words and listening to their sounds, and filing them away in my mental dictionary.
Do grade school teachers do vocabulary tests anymore? I know some must do spelling bees because every year there is a national spelling bee that is reported on the news. At that level, the words are so arcane it makes you wonder if they are made up. Yet these kids manage to pronounce them and spell them as if they were part of their everyday vocabulary. Amazing!
I’m glad there’s at least this remnant of vocabulary memorization and testing; sometime it feels as if our language is being eroded to the point that we can only talk about totally mundane matters. Wait! Was that a collective groan I just heard?
Until Next Time Writers and Readers,
Ellie Pulikonda, Writer/Author