Alerting Student Writers To Wonderful Words

Writers collect words. It is almost compulsive. I have always displayed a fascination for words. 

Words deserve our respect. If we can get the right word in the right place, you give the reader a nudge and make then pay extra attention.

I recall the word –skedaddle in ‘Odd Bird Out, by Helga Bansch. A story about a non conformist raven. The text is rich in its word use.  Skedaddle is a word I recall from my childhood, but I had neither seen or heard it for yonks (an indeterminate yet substantial period of time). I love the sound of skedaddle. I have been sharing it with young writers in the hope I can single handedly revive its use in common conversation.

I vividly recall reading Colin Thiele’s wonderful short story ‘The Lock Out’ to a Grade 6 class and coming across the words ‘agog’ and ’gingerly.’  I wrote them on the board, and we discussed them and savoured the sounds they made. I encouraged my students to try and use them in their writing. In time these special words along with others began to appear in their writing. They grew like flowers. Magically bursting through into the light,- blossoming on the page. We developed a place for those special words we came across in our reading and discussion. We called the them ‘Wonder Words.’ It was a way of paying homage to the richness and meaning these words conveyed. These words had power and we all knew it.

Another word that has always fascinated me is segue. It is common in conversation but largely unseen in print. If you don’t believe me ask people to spell it and see what happens. They say a difficult word is a word we have rarely sighted. The word fuchsia is one such word.

As I am writing this, I am looking at the  book shelves in front of me and a number of titles on display further reinforce the view that words are important to me.  Titles such as, The Word Spy, Lost for Words, The Superior Person’s Little Book of Words, The Boy Who Loved Words along with assorted dictionaries designed for writers, poets and those obsessed with rhyme stand as testimony to my ongoing love of words.

If I were to observe someone folding down an empty milk carton before placing in a bin for recycling, I would say that was an excellent example of tetramangulation. A rather pretentious word that refers to the act of folding down and reducing the surface area of an empty tetra shaped container. New word?  Absolutely!

The great thing about words is that they are constantly being invented. Sadly, words also fall out of use. Sometimes those words are well worth reviving.  A writer needs words just as a fish needs water. Let's exult the wonder of words!


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