Booking Through Thursday: Vocabulary Questions

The latest Booking Through Thursday question: I’ve always wondered what other people do when they come across a word/phrase that they’ve never heard before. I mean, do they jot it down on paper so they can look it up later, or do they stop reading to look it up on the dictionary/google it or do they just continue reading and forget about the word?

ANSWER: Heh. This is an interesting question, and one that comes with a multitude of answers. The simple answer is: I do all three.

If there’s a dictionary near by I have to go and immediately look up the word. It bothers me too much to just skip over it. There are some authors I’m familiar with and know I’ll need a dictionary on hand (Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy), while others catch me off guard. Sometimes if I don’t have a dictionary nearby, but my boyfriend is on the computer and within earshot, I’ll ask him to type it into google or dictionary.com.

Then there are the times when I’m reading on the bus/in the car and I don’t have a dictionary nearby. If it’s my own book I’ll circle the word in pencil. If it’s a library book I say a little prayer that I’ll remember to look the word up later (I never do) and continue reading.

It’s not always necessary to look up a word in order to understand its meaning in the context of a good book. But for me, it’s the joy of having learned something new that forces me to go look it up. I have always hated skipping over unknown words just because I know the next time I see it I’ll still have no idea what it means. Perhaps this anality regarding looking up words comes from studying a foreign language for more than 10 years. And from being forced to use the AP Style Guide for editing and writing newspaper articles throughout my college and professional careers. Wherever I got it from though, I’m glad I’ve learned to do it.

P.S. One thing I also do is circle misspelled words in books. I LOVE to see how many mistakes I can find. Unless I hate the book and there are way too many errors. In those cases I get furious that the book was ever published. How does a book get through 20-something editors and there are still spelling errors and typos? I’ll never know the answer to that one.

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Published in: on April 17, 2008 at 11:47 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Ooooo I don’t do that. I have no problem skipping over unfamiliar words. Skip, skip, skip. I don’t like to interrupt the flow of reading by stopping to look something up. I can generally figure out the meaning from the context.I also like finding typos and errors.. I thought I was the only one with that little quirk!! I used to be a proofreader for a direct mail company years ago, so I have an eagle eye for stuff like that.

  2. Depending on where I am I will usually try to look up words I don’t know the meanings of. The one instance of my doing this is when I was reading “The Kite Runner” and Hosseini mentioned the game Buzkashi. He described the game, but I went on Google and did some image searches. It enriched the images in my mind as I read the book to have a reference on which to base my imaginings.

  3. Hi Rebecca! I don’t know if I remembered to come tell you that you won a book in my blog (Seasons Among the Vines) but I didn’t get an email from you, unless it went to spam or something. Could you email your address so I could send your book? Dewpie at gmail dot com.


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