Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Words's worth

Despite the better part of half a century as a reader and half that time playing a professional part focused on teaching young people about using the English language, I still thrill at the pleasure of meeting new words. Prinked, for example. An author threw that curveball my way recently, in the context of describing holiday lights in Amsterdam: "a city prinked-up for Christmas" (Tartt 647). Kind of like gussied up, I inferred from a mix of context and background experience, but with the added suggestion of strings of winking bulbs. Later, an online dictionary taught me 'prink' is a synonym for primp or preen, two words already in my mental lexicon.

This relish for words hasn't always been one I've tasted with such contentment. I can recall younger me working a crossword puzzle, getting to one of those cruxes where a single letter remains missing at the intersection of two answers -- the hole in an otherwise complete smile. Running vertically as I remember was STR_P. I can't recall the horizontal sequence. Needed a vowel, I knew. Trial and error led me to: Strap? Strip? Strep, even? The clue referenced shaving. The cross-ways clue, I realized demanded an 'o.' I hesitated to write in that letter, though, because: Strop? What was that? In that distant era, I reached for an actual dictionary, rather than some smart phone. I looked up 'strop,' a strip (!) of material used for honing a blade. Even as I (resentfully) filled in the missing 'o,' I threw a side-eye glare at the crossword creators and the esoterica they deployed.

Now I can smile wryly that I have a brain pocket prinked-up by 'strop,' plus my own word-stuffed blog entry.

Work Cited

Tartt, Donna. The Goldfinch. New York: Back Bay Books, 2013.


  1. Oh, I can SO relate to this post about your love for words. I too find new words delicious and am amazed at the power of words to enhance my thinking. I guess it's why I keep writing even when I do not think I have anything left to say!

  2. I love the flexibility of the English language and discovering new words. As a kid, I was teased for "reading the encyclopedia" but I think it really made me a better - and happier - person.

  3. Nothing like a close shave...
    Puzzled, prinked or not!

  4. This is so fun and awesome! (Those words suck though! Not at all imaginative or smart. Summer brain already?) I forget where I heard that the more words you know, the more precisely you can think and write. And of course, reading is how we often learn those new words. Sometimes I am surprised by the words my daughter knows at 6 and also surprised by the words my third graders tell me they don't understand. Word knowledge is so key.

  5. Strop, is that the strap that butchers are depicted using to sharpen their blades menacingly in horror movies? Strop, strap, strip...
    Thank you for helping me smile a little more widely today :D