Why Word Nerds?

Updated: Jun 29

I savor words, the right words, the most expressive words, the words that speak from the page exactly what I want them to say. Shades of meaning—right, correct, precise, accurate, true, flawless, perfect—context and connotation—just the right, correct, perfect word that I pick and place and feel so satisfied.

And I read words—those of my friend and mentor, J. Michael Lennon, so erudite, his vocabulary so full of silver-dollar words, the round, whole, many syllabub words, bound in Greek and Latin, that send me to the dictionary for comprehension.

Taken from Google, dictionary expert Susie Dent suggests average adults have an active vocabulary of around 20,000 words. Think of it. Stack them, one upon another. Spell them. Say them. Use them. They are your words.

But there are words I don’t know. When I come upon one it smiles and says, “Hah, got you.”

So, I determine to learn it. I write it down and look up the meaning. So I can use it. So next time I find that word, I will say, “Hah, got you. Now I know what you mean.”

Word Nerds helps me remember. First, I search for a word to use, then I search for meaning and how to depict it. While I am making a new Word Nerd, I think about the meaning, and it becomes mine. Once it is mine, I share it. Pictures help us remember.

Something else I love are blackberries. For a while after we moved to Mesa, I had blackberry vines. Each spring, the birds and I eyed the same blackberry. Sometimes they won, sometimes I did. Well known poet Galway Kinnell also loved blackberries. And he loved words.

See how he combines images of picking and eating blackberries with the deliciousness of finding just the right word.

Blackberry Eating

I love to go out in late September

among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries

to eat blackberries for breakfast,

the stalks very prickly, a penalty

they earn for knowing the black art

of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them

lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries

fall almost unbidden to my tongue,

as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words

like strengths and squinched,

many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,

which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well

in the silent, startled, icy, black language

of blackberry-eating in late September.