One of the easiest ways that I learn new words is to watch out for them in my reading. I’ve recently come across a plethora of mighty fine words.
In October, my husband and I visited Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse. (Most impressive!) To survive the drive through Wyoming, I retreated to a pile of books that had been stacking up by my bedside. (The trip to and fro netted a nice lot of completed readings . . . 3 magazines and 4 books!)
I read Mayor of Castorbridge by Thomas Hardy. I was totally delighted with this book — and almost overwhelmed at all of the words that were unfamiliar to me. Fifty-four in all! I wrote them in a little notebook so that I could look up and learn the definition.
There were two words there that were absolute gems of discovery! One was dumbledore and the other was hag-rid. Anybody who has read any of the Harry Potter books (or seen the movies) is very familiar with those two words. Or should I say names??
Care to guess what dumbledore means? A dumbledore is a “humble” bee or rather, a bumble bee! Not a fancy yellow-jacket or wasp or hornet. Just a simple honey bee. What interesting connections you can make between the character named Dumbledore and the meaning of the word!
And, what about hag-rid? Thomas Hardy says that hag-rid means indigestion. The Oxford English Dictionary defines hag-rid as ridden by a hag or affected by nightmares. I think I like Tom’s definition better. . . Next time I have indigestion, I’ll be sure to mention that I suffer from hag-rid!
And, before I move onto the word chimerical, I’ve just GOT to mention one other word that J.K. Rowling used that I am impressed with. As you know, Hagrid has a pet hippogriff. It was quite by accident that I stumbled across what a hippogriff was. (I must beg my high school English teacher’s pardon who tried to teach me about mythology . . .)
I thought that a hippogriff was a creature born from Rowling’s imagination. Not so. A hippogriff is a real creature in mythology — or at least as real as mythological creatures can get!
So, all the while I thought Rowling was creating a whole host of new words to fit into her magical world, she really wasn’t. (Either she is just using words and phrases that are very common to all of the charming people in England and not to those of us in America or she is a collector of fine words and can string them along to tell a fascinating story.) Now onto chimerical.
While in Milwaukee, I read “Kaffir Boy” which is a true story of a Black youth, Mark Mathabane, growing up in apartheid South Africa. I highly recommend reading this book! The author of this autobiography can speak several tribal languages in addition to Afrikaans and English. So naturally I was impressed when he used several words that were not familiar to me! One such word was was chimerical.
Since this is the second time that I came across this word in my reading, I thought it was high time that I looked it up and learned it!
Chimerical (kI-'mer-i-kl -- note that the 'ch' makes a 'k' sound). This adjective means filled with idle fancies and wild dreams; whimsical, fanciful.
In June of 1976, ten thousand students were peacefully marching against the requirement made by the Department of Bantu Education that all black schools had to use Afrikaans instead of English as the spoken language. Policeman had formed a barricade and halted the protesters.
Without provocation, the police suddenly opened fire killing several young children and wounding many others. The government thought that the student rebellion was’chimerical’ or in other words idle fancies, without substance. They believed that once the outside Communist agitators were ferreted out that the blacks would once more be subservient to the whites like they had been in the past. The black students’ grievances were anything but chimerical!
Now that you’ve learned four words (dumbledore, hagrid, hippogriff, and chimerical), I also hope that you’ll be motivated to read “Mayor of Castorbridge” or “Kaffir Boy” — or both! Great reads!