Sometimes the simple, obvious solution is the hardest thing to think of.
I’ve torn sticky notes into strips to tab words I don’t know (I never bothered to buy actual sticky tabs) but they come loose easily, and eventually I ran out of notes anyway and never got more, since it wasn’t a good solution. I’ve read books with my vocabulary journal and my phone sitting in arm’s reach, so I can stop to look up words, but in books where that happens frequently, I find myself getting burned out on the process, all that stopping and starting. I’ve dog-eared pages with the intention of coming back and looking up a word, but since I don’t mark the word directly (I’m really hesitant to do that whenever I’m not sure I’m keeping the book) sometimes I end up reading the whole page over to find/remember the problem word, and that’s just slow.
I’m dedicated to expanding my vocabulary this way–I’ve been doing it for 2½ years–but it can be a trial sometimes, especially with certain authors.
When I started Misery, I was at my desk, which is not where I keep my stash of bookmarks. I did, however, have a small pile of index cards. I like my pretty bookmarks, of course, but I’ll use just about anything in a pinch.
When I ran into my first unknown word, everything fell into place.
I’ll admit that I expected to find more words in Misery I’d need to learn, given my past experience with Stephen King, but a week later Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters more than made up for any perceived lack of new vocabulary.
What were the actual words? Let’s find out together.
The door at the far end of the huge ward opened and in came Annie Wilkes–only she was dressed in a long aproned dress and there was a mobcap on her head; she was dressed as Misery Chastain in Misery’s Love.
mobcap: a large soft hat covering all of the hair and typically having a decorative frill, worn indoors by women in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
And he had returned to his calèche without so much as a response to Geoffrey’s question.
calèche: a light low-wheeled carriage with a removable folding hood.
On Monday, July 17, a most intriguing thing took place: one of the tiles from the top of the cenotaph at town center came loose and fell to the ground, shattering into a good many pieces.
cenotaph: a monument to someone buried elsewhere, especially one commemorating people who died in a war.
Mother is having only a slightly better time of it than Mrs. Moseley who, having fallen victim to chronic aposiopesis in the morning, spent the bulk of the afternoon seated in silent defeat behind her desk, while her restless third graders improvised games of catch with a variety of show-and-tell items.
aposiopesis: the device of suddenly breaking off in speech.
Allow me, finally to offer up this arresting little trenchancy: given a few weeks, I, or either of you–most anyone on this isle for that matter–might learn how truly easy it is for one to create a sentence of length matching Nollop’s–perhaps one even shorter.
trenchancy: vigorousness or incisiveness in expression or style.
What a pharisaic, vigilante witch!
pharisaic: relating to or characteristic of the Pharisees or Pharisaism; self-righteous or hypocritical.
Those who look closely at my pictured bookmarks will notice several words missing from my post. I became frustrated with Ella Minnow Pea for that very reason: when I found an unfamiliar word, I had to either look it up right away or make my best guess as to whether it was an existing word I truly didn’t know, or an invention of the author’s. I dismissed most of the inventions I saw based on their obvious root meanings and context–if I could figure out what was meant by it, that was good enough for me. Apparently, though, several made it through my rough screening process, leaving me looking up definitions that don’t exist.
Usually this peril doesn’t exist–I’ve only discovered one other nonexistent word that way prior to Ella. So it’s not putting me off my vocabulary quest, but it was disheartening.