In the eighth grade I approached one of my favorite English teachers and asked if I could write a new and unknown word on the board in her classroom every day.
She said yes and the format was as follows:
1.) feeling or expressing pensive sadness
Example: Even years after his death, she felt melancholic about his absence at times.
I learned lots of interesting words such as brobdingnagian and pulchritudinous—words I would never have known before! When my teacher brought the words I chose and labored over up in class, I felt honored and flushed with pride.
At my job, my boss suggested we begin learning a word each day, signing up for the Merriam-Webster newsletter for a daily vocabulary lesson. The first one was the Latin phrase mutatis mutandis, an adverb meaning “with the necessary changes having been made” or “with the respective differences having been considered.” A new word everyday, a new sentence to compose, a new etymology to discover. There are 171,476 words that compose the English language according to the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.
There is a tiny power to behold, a morsel of delight in each word that we learn. We don’t want to stop learning, to stop feeling intelligent in some manner, to stop discovering exciting tidbits. And as much as we want to learn that language, teach ourselves woodworking, or become excellent tennis players, starting with a single word of our own language that we don’t even know to its fullest extent is a manageable way to learn, like depositing microtransactions into your brain.
When I follow that vein of lexical fascination from a childhood notebook filled with words I intended to look up later to that middle school dry-erase board I so earnestly devoted time to and finally to the chalkboard wall I encounter now, I feel almost mystically attached to vocabulary, in tune with the stars, my Gemini sign manifesting itself heartily. A pair of myself in self-indulgent chatter, unearthing new ways of expressing it most accurately.
For others I imagine it’s something else, some other errant string to pull and find all along that it’s the obsession of a lifetime, the kernel of information to forever chew.
I hope your find your string and follow it to its end.