Last week I watched a documentary on the life of Gore Vidal. Vidal was a prolific american writer, famous for frequent talk-show appearances and witty political criticisms. He often debated with William Buckley who was also famous for his literary works and his political opinions. Their views on many subjects were diametrically opposed to one other, but what they had in common was their rapier wit, incredible intelligence, and vocabularies that made you feel that they had ingested Webster’s dictionary.
My mother loved words and her goal was to make sure that I loved them too. Every night after dinner she would ask me what new word I had learned that day. if I didn’t come up with something she would bring out the dictionary and tell me to pick out a word to add to my list. She was also an avid reader and encouraged me to read as well. When she would find out that Buckley and Vidal were on a show together we would sit and watch them “go at it”.
I remember being mesmerized by their dialogue. Even if you didn’t understand what they were saying, you were in awe of how they said it. Yes, they had an air of arrogance about them, but that added to their allure. They always appeared to be like two proud Lions stalking and calculating how to take over each other’s territories.
In today’s world having a good vocabulary doesn’t seem to matter much. After all as long as you understand what #hashtag means you’re all set. Basically knowing 140 words will get you through your entire life if the technology wizards have it their way. Texting doesn’t require being “word wise”! I don’t recall having someone text me words, like supercilious, lugubrious, salacious, ebullient or fatuous. Texting is supposed to be short and sweet, get to the point for goodness sake.
Our need to get to the point is helping to eliminate conversations that once included dialogue that helped describe our opinions, and emotions. We often rail against how technology has overcomplicated our lives. Yet, perhaps the opposite is true. There are a plethora of sites that are now able to reduce subject matter to the simplest terms. Writing an essay as a homework assignment was often a brain drain. Now you can find essays already written for you if you choose to eliminate using your own “think tank”.
We are constantly alerted to how important it is to exercise the brain in order to stave off the horrors of dementia. Crossword puzzles seem to be one of the prescriptions to help with neuroplasticity along with a healthy diet and exercise. There’s only one problem, it’s hard to do a crossword puzzle without a good vocabulary. It just might be time to pick up a dictionary!