This post is in response to Colin Brooke’s call for fives via his fantastic, eclectic, and always interesting inbox newsletter Rhetsy, a curated selection of rhetoric-related content from around the web.
I’m a fan of lists, even randomized ones, so Colin’s call was easy to heed. What isn’t so easy is settling on a list of what. I like to share my musical proclivities, so the last five stations of Pandora were tempting. So were the last five items added to my Amazon wish list. Five most used words in this semester’s syllabi were tempting, too, either those from the courses I’m teaching or those from the courses I’m taking. Lots of lists to chose from.
I’ve settled on the last five words entered into the vocabulary builder function on my Kindle. This decision was arrived at after talking with my bilingual wife, a fluent speaker of English born and bred speaking Spanish in Uruguay and Venezuela. Our conversation had to do with my propensity to take shortcuts in speech, relying heavily, at times, on cursing. George Carlin, of course, demonstrates the incredible versatility of the champion of dirty words, but I take Silvana’s point; my shorthand reliance on a few predictable, staccatic syllables is at times both a bit lazy and not the most elegant use of language. As someone who is ever-learning the English language (as am I, and all of us L1 speakers, really), Silvana implores me to broaden my vocabulary. Despite habits accrued over thirty-odd years, a good chunk of which I spent in a strictly Catholic household that constantly tempted me to utter forbidden words, I’m inclined to oblige, both for the betterment of my own lexis as well as for the unwritten duties of harmonious matrimony.
So here is my list of the five most recent entries into the vocab builder on my Kindle. They come from two novels I am currently reading (and trying desperately to finish before the buzz of the semester hits full force): Iron Council, the third installment of China Miéville’s mind-bending and brilliant steam-punk/sci-fi/fantasy Bas-Lag series; and The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell’s 1996 sci-fi novel which follows the story of a Jesuit, Puerto Rican linguist who travels to and returns from a distant planet.