A blog I’ve enjoyed reading is written by an acquaintance of mine, Bill Chapman. http://lgwilliamchapman.ca/ He has a very entertaining way of expressing his thoughts. I always find myself mirthfully perusing how he has chosen to say something with ornate precision such that the full impact of his statement does not become apparent until one gleans the field of his thought. Then, often enough I laugh in agreement at the wit underlying his exposition. His writing is also a source of rich vocabulary. Mostly, I understand unfamiliar words in context, but occasionally look them up to be certain.

My neighbour, Brian, is also a vocabulary buff, who, like Bill, has a strong background in Latin. On a recent warm day, I was helping Brian to deal with his ‘ghost of Christmas past’ by taking down the holiday lights he had so painstakingly tied up in his outdoor tree last November. Then, as I like to do upon the completion of such a task as that, we stood in the shade of his garage sucking back bottles of Dos Equis beer (only one each). We often discuss unusual words and that day was no exception. He told me that for reasons unknown to him, on the previous day a little-used word had come to his mind and stuck there like a brain-sludge advertising jingle might do. The word was “callipygian.” It is a fine word, but I am struggling with how I might use it productively in any kind of writing I’d be inclined to share with the public. Callipygian means ‘finely shaped buttocks.’ In regular, “Hi there” writing it does not belong, and in erotic writing I don’t see how it might add anything stimulating either. Moreover, as Brian and I had to agree, that which is callipygous would certainly be in the eye of the beholder. For me, the observed one, or is it two(?), being female is a prerequisite for my true appreciation.

My former ESL students were always dismayed to learn that English has the largest vocabulary of any language in the world. It is a treasure trove of well over one million words and growing fast. But then I’d offer them the reassurance that one could make oneself well-understood with only about 50,000 words or so and very learned people might top out at about 800,000 words. So much to learn! So much fun!

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