When I discovered that today, October 16, is “National Dictionary Day”, I thought I’d take two minutes to totally geek out and share why I’m a proponent of improving your vocabulary every day.
What is National Dictionary Day? It honors Noah Webster, considered the Father of the American Dictionary, and strives to bring awareness to the importance of developing vocabulary. (Fun fact: Webster began writing his dictionary at the age of 43 and it took him 27 years to finish it!)
I admit I’m smitten with this pseudo-holiday. Not only is my town (West Brookfield, Massachusetts) home to Charles Merriam, who is famous for publishing the first Webster’s Dictionary, but I love learning new words, trying to use them in my life, and feeling wicked smart when I recognize them in a sentence.
It started in middle school when we were assigned chapters in our vocabulary book that introduced us to a list of new words and provided numerous exercises to help absorb them in our language repertoire. This was the only homework that actually came natural to me, and as a result I craved learning more new words.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of words to learn. And if you think about it, dictionaries are kind of a big deal; certainly you’ve used one in your life. Dictionaries literally are the bible of our language, and language and communication is by far one of the most important parts of our lives.
People with great vocabularies always inspire me. They seem well-read, worldly, intelligent, and eloquent. If you’re an avid reader, you probably pick up new words regularly. But if you don’t, you have to work a little harder to learn new words. Why learn new words? Why not? There are almost 500,000 words in the dictionary and if you’re only using the same few thousand over and over, you’re really missing out. Time to spice it up! Learning new words can pay off in our careers (talk smarter), our relationships (choose better, more thoughtful words), and our health (exercise the brain).
Starting today, commit to learning a new word every day. If that’s too ambitious and you don’t want to flip open a dictionary every night, how about once a week? Or the next time you hear or read a word you don’t know, open up the good ol’ Webster’s Dictionary – you know you’ve got one – and look it up. You’ll gain the power of another word, not to be taken for granted.