There is a reason why The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers isn’t more widely read. It’s because of words like chary and peripety and thaumaturgy, all of which were found on the same page in my version of the book as I was reading this morning. Yes, they are English words.
When I was in college, I read with a dictionary. I had a little pocket dictionary that I carried in my bag. I had a bigger dictionary in my dorm room. (One of my father’s prized possessions is a dictionary given to him when he went to college, so he gave one to me when I went.) Now I have multiple dictionaries around the house, little ones, big ones, paperback, hardback, electronic — we’ve got them all.
And what do I usually use now? The internet.
My father also told me to use a new word ten times to make it mine. I am more than a little chary of this advice while blogging.
Definition of CHARY1. dear, treasured
2. discreetly cautious: as hesitant and vigilant about dangers and risks
Certainly there are dangers and risks involved in using words such as these. Will I frighten off some of my younger readers? I really don’t want a peripety with Hot Dogs and Marmalade.
Definition of PERIPETYperipeteia
Definition of PERIPETEIA: a sudden or unexpected reversal of circumstances or situation especially in a literary work
This blog is chugging along quite well, thank you, and I’m not sure I want a sudden reversal of circumstance in one direction or another. It feels safe the way it is.
And yet, there is that longing within each of us for a little thaumaturgy.
Definition of THAUMATURGY
: the performance of miracles; specifically: magic
Isn’t that why we read anything in the first place? We want to be transported, enlightened, challenged, encouraged. We all want a little magic in our lives. Just waking up in the morning isn’t miracle enough — we seek something more.
The way I figure it, I’m 10% of the way to owning those words.
Tim Gunn, the fashion guru, said,
Few activities are as delightful as learning new vocabulary.
But then, Stephen King, an incredibly talented and successful writer said,
One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.
Don’t you find it funny that the fashion designer talks about words and the writer talks about fashion?
I guess I’ll just be chary of overusing big words.