Have you ever run across a word while reading a book that you are positive the author has used in the wrong way? Did you think to stop and look up all the meanings of the word?
As a result of looking up words that I don’t understand in the books that I read, my vocabulary has greatly expanded. When words that I’m sure I know the meaning of are used in a way that I don’t think makes any sense, only a dictionary can tell me the truth. Much to my surprise, many words I’m familiar with have other meanings that I knew nothing about.
An example of this is lay. In Crowns of Silver & Ash: Book 1: The Seven Stars, on page 44, there is the following sentence: It was a lay Bildgermuck had learned long ago. What does lay mean in that sentence? A noun, it was something that Bildgermuck had learned.
But most of the definitions of lay that I was familiar with were verbs, except for one. In lay of the land, it means the way or position in which a thing is laid or lies. But that definition made no sense in the sentence from this book.
So, I scrolled farther down, way farther down, the page in the dictionary. Finally, after all the modern definitions, verb phrases, and idioms listed, I found it. A Middle English definition of lay is a song, a short narrative, or a poem, especially one to be sung. This definition made perfect sense.
In the wonderful world of words, meanings aren’t the only thing that we need to make sure of. How many words do you just assume you are pronouncing the right way? Is it possible that the prevailing accent where you live has changed the way those around you pronounce this word? Is it possible that even your schoolteachers were pronouncing it wrong?
The word larynx has been familiar to me for as long as I can remember. Most of you probably know what a larynx is too. It is doubtful that I knew the meaning of that word when I was the first grade, but I don’t really remember much of my childhood until I was nine years old.
The larynx is home to our vocal cords. So, imagine my surprise when this word was used by one of the characters on Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, and she pronounced it so much differently than the way I did. I paused the episode and backed it up just to hear her pronounce it again. Ha! I thought I had caught them making a major mistake. Of course, if they had made a mistake, all I could have done was laugh about it.
Once done playing that portion of the show several more times, I paused it and looked the word up myself. Much to my dismay and embarrassment, I had been pronouncing that word wrong my entire life. 🙁 The actress on Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders was saying it the correct way.
What lesson did I learn from that? Always listen to the pronunciation of any word that I look up. Thanks to modern technology, www.dictionary.com will play the correct pronunciation of any word for me. Where was this dictionary when I was a child? Oh, yeah. The internet wasn’t even around then.
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