Word gift

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Language is full of words that people rarely use. The average English speaker's vocabulary is about 10,000 words from the 620,000 available in the OED. Shakespeare used 29,066 different words in his works and you have to imagine that he knew quite a few he didn't commit to paper.

Although I have no clue how large my lexicon is, I take pleasure in knowing odd words. Authors with large vocabularies, correctly used, make me smile, especially when our word-banks overlap.

This morning as I was reading Neal Stephenson's The Confusion, I came across a word that I love but have never, ever seen in context.

"The Armenian boy whispered up on slippered feet, bearing on a gaudy silver salver a tiny beaker of coffee clenched in a writhen silver zarf."

Zarf, along with vug, is a gift from my grandfather and his sister, Louise, who were both avid Scrabble players. My sister has the unabridged dictionary they used as their arbiter, but I received the pleasure of reading a word I'd only known as a curiosity from their games.

What a great way to begin a week.

1 Comment

I think we are drawn to the authors who have vocabularies that overlap ours, and that changes as you grow as a reader/writer/person.

You started the week with a word that begins with z, so you should end it with one that begins with a. :-)

I have that dictionary? I have many. Is it the blue fabric Websters?

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  • Jenny: I think we are drawn to the authors who have read more