Boxall's 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die discussion

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message 1: by Kara (last edited Jun 27, 2008 03:26PM) (new)

Kara I have picked up a rather time consuming obsession lately. I look up words I don't know, before I continue reading. I'll be in the middle of reading a sentence and will stop cold if I don't know a word. I recently read The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and that's when it started. I think I ended up looking up about 75 words in that book alone. And now for my complete dorkiness. I write down all the words and their definitions in my book journal.

I'm interested in finding out what others do when they come across words they don't know.


message 2: by Denise (new)

Denise | 235 comments I tend to just ignore the words I don't know, but I don't see this as a good thing.

I think I remember reading that Jack London used to write a new word a day and hang it in his apartment. Or something like that.

message 3: by Jen (new)

Jen Haha, I have a dictionary that I bought a decade ago where I highlight words I have to look up; there are a couple I keep forgetting. I do it less now that I look stuff up on the internet, but searching online is usually for stuff I'm writing, to make sure my use of the word makes sense.

message 4: by Stacie (new)

Stacie | 140 comments For me it depends. Sometimes I can figure out the word via context...sometimes I ignore it unless I feel it is imperative to know in order to go one reading. As for dorkiness...I have a word journal AND I star words in a dictionary that I looked up. However, like Jen, I usually look up words in the OED online. I find I look up far more words when I am reading theory than a novel. I remember being in a theory class and reading an essay with my computer on my lap and was looking up nearly every fourth word! However, I can now define synecdoche...even if I might not know how to spell it!

message 5: by Kieffala (new)

Kieffala | 76 comments Yes, if I can figure out the word from the context, I don't worry. I do need to try to keep a word list though. I can't imagine dropping the book to look of the word though, I'm more a fan of writing the words down and looking them up later.

I took the same approach when I took the Latin translation class. I'd look up all the words I didn't know in the paragraph or assignment, then make the sentences work. That's just what works for me.

message 6: by Tai (new)

Tai | 3 comments I've just started keeping a list in the back of the books and look them up when I get to work (as I do most of my reading on the train/bus to and from work). Newest word was 'crepuscular'from The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay :Crepuscular is a term used to describe animals that are primarily active during twilight, hence at dawn and at dusk.[1] The word is derived from the Latin word crepusculum, meaning "twilight".[1] Crepuscular is thus in contrast with diurnal and nocturnal behavior. (according the Wiki.)

message 7: by Kara (new)

Kara lol Tai, I'm reading Kavalier and Clay right now, and I looked up 'crepuscular' too.

I can't keep reading if I don't know a word. I have to look it up right away, because so often my understanding of a sentence or paragraph depends on the definition of the word. From 'The Road' -- Meconium -- "A dark green fecal material that accumulates in fetal intestines and is excreted at or near birth." See, I would not gotten such a clear image in my head if I had not looked up the word. lol

Oh, and I usually only look up words if I can't figure out their meanings in context. Sometimes I think I've figured out a word, then when I look it up, find out that I was wrong. So yeah, it's an obsession with me. :)

message 8: by Nicole (new)

Nicole  Usually context is enough for me. If not, my first resort is to ask my wife. She tends to know most words. That usually works. If she doesn't know, I might look it up or I might not. It sort of depends on how important the word is to understanding what's going on. Sometimes, it matters not.

message 9: by Aaron (new)

Aaron | 12 comments so I must say McCarthy has quite a vocabulary, but his obscure words repeat so it's not all that bad. Nonetheless, I just finished Suttree and that book at a bunch of words I didn't know. For a logophile like me, it's quite great to see words you don't normally see in print.

To put this in context, I play in scrabble tournaments and have essentially memorized all the words in the dictionary 8 letters or less, and a good % of longer ones too. So for there to be a word I don't know, it has to be pretty archaic or obscure, and I have to use OED or something, because no collegiates will have them.

The most difficult read I had with vocab was probably the Ithaca chapter from Joyce. There were entire sentences where I only knew two or three words, and a dictionary wouldn't help either.

message 10: by Macy (new)

Macy | 17 comments One thing I've found helpful with Joyce is to get a version that has notes at the end. I'm reading Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man now and the notes are very helpful for the Irish references that are essential to the topic.

Otherwise I try to look up words as often as possible. I used to keep a log of new words but that's sort of fallen off the last few years.

message 11: by Michelle (new)

Michelle (fireweaver) | 104 comments add me to the "context" pile. i'm just not reading next to the computer or the dictionary often enough to justify wandering off every so often to look something up. that stubbornness/laziness + the couple of years of high school latin mean i generally muddle through somehow. but if the author is using the word more than once, it generally starts to irk me enough that i'm driven to go look it up.

toughest weird-word book ever for me was the 1st book in gene wolfe's "book of the new sun" series, 'the shadow of the torturer'. i had an online guide to the bizarrely archaic words used in that book saved to my computer for rapid & frequent reference. at some point (and the words had some, but not all, to do with it), it all became too dense and i never finished that one.

message 12: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Runnals (carriewordstomouth) | 3 comments Fun thread...

I tend to keep a pencil with me and jot unknown words on the inside back cover for later if I can figure out the meaning via context. If not, I'm like you, Kara. I stop and look it up before moving forward. Unfortunately, most times, I don't retain it, though I fantasize about the days when we can implant a microchip into our heads with boundless information. Hmmm, on second thought...

message 13: by Kara (new)

Kara Carrie, retention is a problem with me too. It is quite annoying. Sometimes I have to go back and look in the log I keep when a word I looked up is repeated later in the book. Sometimes I remember, but most of the time, no.

message 14: by Sierra (new)

Sierra | 3 comments Kara, you writing down the definitions of words in a book is actually SMART. Sometimes it might be silly, spending two hours looking for one word but it makes you smarter and extends your vocabulary. You now know words not many others do so it's aaaaaaaalllll good. ^-^

message 15: by Stacie (last edited Jul 01, 2008 07:23AM) (new)

Stacie | 140 comments Also with Joyce, they have great annotated books (not part of the book cause that would make the actual text about a billion pages long) that not only give you definitions of the words, but historical and other information. I am part of a Finnegan's Wake reading group and don't think we would "figure out" as much as we have without the annotated companion. I used this for Ulysses as well and truly made all the difference in my reading, as I had tried without it and was just confused most of the time.

I've also done the writing the definition in the book...often on the page the word is on. That way, when I read it again it is right there.

As for retention...I too struggle with that. So, what I try to do is use the word (any word) throughout the day, often repeating it to myself. Then, I try to stick it in a paper I am writing. My favorite was farrago; even my professor didn't know what it meant! (It means hodgepodge; confused mixture)

message 16: by Karen (new)

Karen | 64 comments Our library used to have Rocket e-book readers, they had a built in dictionary feature that was awesome, because you could look up a word you didn't know as you were reading the book. Unfortunately, the dictionary wasn't the best when it came to a lot of colloquial words from classic titles. but it was useful for most words. I was so sad when the company went out of business and we could no longer buy content.

message 17: by Aaron (new)

Aaron | 12 comments The second time I read through Joyce I used Gifford's annotated Ulysses, and it did make it a lot more understandable (although, a lot slower. Expect ~5 minutes per page, 15 if you're in Proteus.

Does anyone else get excited when they see a word for the first time in a book? It's probably a little different for me, because there are a lot of words that I know, but have never seen outside of a dictionary/word list setting.

message 18: by Kieffala (new)

Kieffala | 76 comments I have a great mini dictionary of odd, weird words that I got at a poetry festival from either Coleman Barks or Robert Bly. I'll look for it and post the publication information if anyone is interested. It has great words in it. I used to flip through and try to use those words in my day.

message 19: by Kara (new)

Kara Hi Kieffala, I am interested in the dictionary.:)

Strange that you should mention using "weird words" in your daily vocabulary. I have looked up so many words over 200. But I don't think I could ever use most of them in conversation without sounding like I was TRYING to use them. Know what I mean? I don't even think I could even use most of the words in writing. I'm reading Kavalier and Clay right now, and I can't help thinking Chabon is just annoyingly pretentious with words like "mucilage" and "presdigitated." I can't even find the latter in my dictionary, though I haven't looked online. I'm getting so irritated that I'm thinking of abandoning the book.

I still love strange words though, don't get me wrong. But I think Chabon is even more over the top with his vocabulary than Cormac McCarthy is in The Road, which I loved.

message 20: by Stacie (new)

Stacie | 140 comments It's because Chabon is friends with Dave Eggers who is the most annoyingly pretentious persion on the face of the earth. Sorry...couldn't help myself.

While "mucilage" doesn't and wouldn't enter a daily conversation, I do try (as I think I mentioned previously) to use a word when I can. I remember when I figured out what "fortuitous" meant years ago and started using it. At first, it was awkward, but then felt right. Now, when I use new words, like "acquiesce", it doesn't feel so awkward and most people expect it from me. (hee hee)

message 21: by Deb (new)

Deb (lupatrian) Kieffala, I'm interested in your funky dictionary, too. Thanks. I figure, if someone went to the trouble to create these exacting words for things, we damn well outta use 'em! ~:)

message 22: by Emma (new)

Emma (mnium) | 138 comments Oh, this is a fun thread!

One of the reasons I was coveting a Kindle was that I understand you can look words up while you read, by clicking on them or something.

Now I have Kindle for iPhone and I don't think I can do that but I did download a "app" that I'm finding myself using while I read non-e-books. (I haven't used my iPhone to read anything yet; it just seems too small.) The first section of Cloud Atlas had a lot of fun words that I found myself looking up. Tatterdemalion (ragamuffin); hugger-mugger (confused; disorderly); condign ([of punishment:] fitting and deserved).

I checked the book out from the library and one of the previous patrons had circled words in the book, which is a great idea...unless it's a library book!

message 23: by Anna (new)

Anna (lilfox) | 291 comments While reading I write down the words I don't know and then check their meaning.

message 24: by Natalie (new)

Natalie (aquariusnat) | 13 comments LOL , I have been considering buying the OED for a while now ! I think the more classics I read , the more likely I'll end up buying that dictionary !

message 25: by Chel (new)

Chel | 380 comments Nice thread!
I used to write down words I learned in a notebook for leisure reading and just look up words for school. Then I went through a period where I knew most words and figured out the few I did not know by their context. Now, I have a Kindle with a dictionary built in in which I place a cursor in front of a word and a definition shows up. What I should do is type the words I learn in a memo in the book which Kindle allows one to do also. I have found that I am encountering more words I do not know again as I expand my literary reading. I surprise has been translations, esp. older ones, that are well done but use more unique words to convey ideas from a foreign language. I good example is the Chinese classic The Water Margin, that I am currently reading.

message 26: by Karina (new)

Karina (camomiletea) | 12 comments I used to do this, especially since English is not a native language for me, and I moved to the U.S. so English is all I can find in libraries ;) I would write down the words I didn't know on small cards, look them up in the dictionary, write translation on the back, and then occasionally review the cards. That was about 9 years ago. Now I'm more of a "context" person. I don't bother, because I usually can understand the meaning.

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