One doesn’t have a good vocabulary; one maintains a good vocabulary. Evelyn Waugh was right to say, “One forgets words as one forgets names. One’s vocabulary needs constant fertilizing or it will die.”
When at their best, writers work diligently at the use of language because we know that language lives at the heart of what makes us human. When at their worst, writers work at language in order to sound impressive or smart or ironic or cynical.
I recommend the former, and these ten words to get you rolling again…
[uh–sij-oo-uh s]; adjective; hardworking and diligent in effort; industrious and persevering at a task.
Use: “Great risks come in long term, tremendously assiduous, very courageous study.” – William Hurt
[ni-fair-ee-uh s]; adjective; wicked or immoral; despicable; having evil or villainous motivation.
Use: “Characters that are doing something nefarious have some extra layers to them… bad people don’t necessarily think they are bad.” – Jason Alexandar
[soh-luh -siz-uh m]; noun; unconventional or incorrect grammatical construction; flagrant violation of social etiquette (usually for effect).
Use: “We live now in the post-aural age, when an unsolicited phone call is, thankfully, becoming more and more understood to be an unspeakable social solecism, tantamount to an impertinent invasion of privacy.” – Will Self
[uh-nak-ruh–nis-tik]; adjective; someone or something that belongs to an earlier period of time; outdated or old fashioned; against chronological order.
Use: “The next real literary “rebels” in this country might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels, born oglers who dare somehow to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles… these anti-rebels would be outdated, of course, before they even started. Dead on the page. Too sincere. Clearly repressed. Backward, quaint, naive, anachronistic.” – David Foster Wallace
[suh–gas-i-tee]; noun; possessing sound judgment, wisdom, or knowledge; intelligent discernment; erudition.
Use: “We grudge no man a fortune which represents his own power and sagacity, when exercised with entire regard to the welfare of his fellows.” – Theodore Roosevelt
[proh-zey-ik]; adjective; run of the mill; dull and plain; banal or matter-of-fact.
Use: “The optimist’s pleasure was prosaic, for it dwelt on the naturalness of everything; the Christian pleasure was poetic, for it dwelt on the unnaturalness of everything in the light of the supernatural.” – G.K. Chesterton
[im-preg-nuh-buh l]; adjective; strong enough to withstand an attack or challenge; cannot be breeched or taken by force.
Use: “He was impregnably armored by his good intentions and his ignorance.” – Graham Greene
[dif-i-duh nt]; adjective; timid, shy, or lacking in confidence; yielding and hesitant.
Use: “Poetry provides the one permissible way of saying one thing and meaning another… we like to talk in parables and in hints and in indirections — whether from diffidence or some other instinct.” – Robert Frost
[v. en-er-veyt ing]; adjective; to wear out; deprive of force, strength, or vitality; tend to cause a weakness and fatigue.
Use: “Society will develop a new kind of servitude which covers the surface of society with a network of complicated rules… it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.” – Alexis de Tocqueville
[spyoo r-ee-uh s]; adjective; not truly genuine, false; intending to deceive in regard to origin or motivation; counterfeit.
Use: “All nationalistic distinctions – all claims to be better than somebody else because you have a different-shaped skull or speak a different dialect – are entirely spurious, but they are important so long as people believe in them.” – George Orwell
*If you are interested in reading a few more “10 Great Words” posts here are a few links: