Sunday, November 11, 2007

Expanding Your Vocabulary With HotForWords

I love words and have always enjoyed expanding my vocabulary whenever possible. I confess a certain pleasure in being facile with medical terminology especially when it puts most laypersons completely in the dark. It's that whole belonging to a secret club thing I guess. But despite that guilty pleasure, knowing mainstream English words that no one else knows holds far more interest for me.

When I was faced with the daunting task of increasing my vocabulary for the Graduate Record Examination (required for applying to a master's program in public health), I took a rather unusual approach. Rather than study one of the many GRE prep books, I read Francis Bacon's Advancement of Learning. This rather deep book on epistemology (the science of knowledge for those with smaller vocabularies than mine) was so dense, that I had to look up at least one word in the dictionary on virtually every page. By the time I was finished, there was NO way that I wasn't going to excel on at least the verbal part of that test.

Well, I may have found a better way and her name is Marina also known as HotForWords.

I frankly don't recall how I came across her on the internet but I did. Marina is a philologist, one who studies etymology and linguistics. She has taken it upon herself to convey her passion for words to us neophytes and her approach to education is...refreshing? Marina's style is perhaps most effective at stimulating male enthusiasts of the English language but certainly women will have much to learn from her as well. For kids...I think I'd go with more traditional methods.

She has posted some 58 videos on youtube, each one a short seminar on the etymology of a different word. I can't help but think that if I'd had her help so many years ago, I would have done even better on my test. The complete collection can be found here. I warn you though; they push the envelope on being "workplace safe".

I invite you to partake of this video where Professor Marina explains the origin of one of my favorite words, pusillanimous.

Also try out this very informative one on irony.

Pay attention.

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