One of my favorite things about reading is the inevitability of coming across new words. It’s nearly certain that with every new book I read, there will be at least a few words that I’ve either never seen or heard before or haven’t taken much notice of if I have. Once I do recognize and finally fully understand a word, it of course starts popping up everywhere—and I wonder how I could ever have missed its existence before.
The best thing, however, about these words is how often certain ones show up in literature, but rarely in conversation. There are always those terms that the general reading population can collectively correctly define, but have never and will probably never utter out loud. You might write them in a letter and you will most certainly read them, but use them in day-to-day speech? Probably not. (Exceptions are those that you come across that are just so great that you wait for the perfect opportunity to use in real life—which is an extraordinarily difficult task because of course you want it to sound natural and not rehearsed or forced, but it’s such a unique word that the situation has to be exactly right. But it’s so satisfying when it finally happens! I had a wonderful experience with “indefatigable.”)
Of course, when these words are never spoken aloud, thus never really heard by anyone, there can be grievous errors in pronunciation. For years I thought the word “bedraggled” was pronounced “bed-raggled.” And that made sense! I mean…someone who’s bedraggled surely would look like they had just come out of bed and were…raggly? I never really thought about it, and it wasn’t until I think some time in high school when a teacher used it in a lecture. I still think it took me some time before I realized that her pronunciation of “bedraggled” and my understanding of “bed-raggled” were in fact the same word and not two that were both similar and conveniently meant the same thing.
Tell me! What are the best words you’ve learned from reading? Have you been able to use them in real life without sounding like you meant to? How off have you been on the correct pronunciation of a word that you really thought you were incredibly familiar with?