While surfing the internet the other day I came across a shirt with the image of a raven spelling the word “nevermore.” I immediately recognized the reference to Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem The Raven, and being the owner of the complete works of Poe I went and grabbed my copy off of the shelf. However, whenever I opened up the book a small piece of paper fell out, and upon looking closer I realized that I had written a bunch of words on it. The paper was a list of vocabulary that Poe had used in his various short stories that I did not know the meaning of and had meant to look up later.
One of the great advantages of reading older books is the expansive use of vocabulary found in them. While by no means a universal truth, many older authors had a much stronger mastery of the English language than people do today. This makes old books a great way to learn new English words. However, like with just about anything, vocabulary growth cannot be obtained in a desultory manner, because then we end up writing words down to reference later and stick them in a book (like I did with Poe). After discovering my neglected list of unknown words I have decided to be more intentional about reading, and thereby learning, new words, and I would encourage you to join me in this venture. Words are the way the world communicates, and the more accurately and efficiently we can communicate the better chance we have of being successful in our interactions with others. In fact, it has been said that CEO’s of major companies have a very high vocabulary knowledge, and although correlation does not equal causation by any means, it is generally understood that the better a person can communicate the more successful they will be professionally.
After rediscovering my list of vocabulary from Poe’s book, I continued on to reread The Raven. It took me all of 5 minutes, but in the process I discovered several more words to add to my small piece of paper. So, find a good book, and whenever you get a chance, read and learn. There’s a whole wealth of words out there that the majority of people do not know, a whole treasure chest just waiting to be discovered. Here are some of the words that I found on the small piece of paper inside my Poe Anthology:
- Quiescence –adj. in a state or period of inactivity or dormancy
- Asphodel –n. an immortal flower said to grow in the Elysian fields
- Desultory –adj. lacking a plan, purpose, or enthusiasm
- Nepenthe –n. any drug or potion bringing welcome forgetfulness
- Castellated –adj. having battlements
- Surcease –n. cessation; relief or consolation