Throw a dictionary at me, it’ll hurt less.

I remember I was in second standard when the English teachers turned into language fanatics. And the end of their cruelty was nowhere close. They had a sudden urge to burden little kids into carrying this bulky book of random words ordered alphabetically to school every day. And this became the supreme law for the entire class. Defaulters were to be penalized with a reminder note in the diary followed by a taste of public embarrassment. They also had to bear the brunt of not knowing a new word written in the textbook from their own dictionary! How mean is that!? I don’t understand how could the teachers miss the words SHARE on page 509 and FORGIVENESS on page 218.

Well, the point was to inculcate this habit of referring to the dictionary to gain depths of the texts. We often used to crib that “Where will I ever use this word in my life?!”, to which I can imagine a high-headed, arrogant, bespectacled English teacher looking down upon us and saying, “In all the right places but unfortunately your peers are equally miserable and not in the habit of bringing a dictionary to the school!”. Now, that I am an adult, battling through text fights and defending my opinions on different social media platforms, it becomes slightly problematic with a limited vocabulary. I realized that words have moods, tones, degree of respect, touch of formality and spectrum of emotions and if you falter in the choice of words, BOOM, GAME OVER. It is actually a battle of expression; the intent plays a background role but verbosity is quite important too. While Shakepeare taught us that brevity is the soul of wit. You should still know how to swim in the deep side of the pool even if you just want to chill in the shallow part, a classic counter argument by the Dictionary cult.

Dictionary also focuses on the usage of those armed words. But I find the accompanying sentences way too extreme. We were often asked to keep the book close to us and skim through it for fun; only to come across life lessons, rude and truthful things ogling at us. Maybe our teachers refrained from saying them out loud. “He gave me an emphatic no when I asked him out” or “human, n: See HUMANITY”. It’s funny when we read it but imagine if someone says this to you. Yes! It’ll be unsettling.

I understand the passion with which prose and poems are discussed by English teachers but simultaneously I feel sad for Hindi as a language. Nobody stresses on the Shabdkosh (Hindi Dictionary, the distant relative of Oxford tyrant). The life of teachers start with Gillu, the squirrel and ends at translation of some Avadhi texts or romanticizing the grim works of Premchand. There is a limited exposure to other classic authors and the constrained vocabulary hinders the self exploration process of our personal interests. So, in a way, English Dictionary has been a savior for a lot of us. But I’ll pick this petty brawl of languages some other day.

Today, I am sitting on my couch in a languid state because I am profusely free yet to ameliorate my thoughts and abstain from redundancy of life on this lovely evening where my mother is constantly reminding me of my quotidian tasks. *Pick a dictionary now!*

//Until next time

SB

16 comments

    • The stats give a pretty diverse figure. But as of Hindi being spoken by 637m people, I credit that to our massive population.

      The catch is even Hindi spoken is also not of one form, it changes with every region and is losing its pure form. It gets adulterated with other regional languages.
      Like many other languages across the world, the style is becoming more colloquial and people becoming more distant from its great literature and history. It has dropped down to mere form of communication now. Sadly, like every other language as you rightly said.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Loved this post. Teachers can be mean, sometimes 😋. That reminds me, the set of dictionaries I have collected for my daughters is gathering dust in the corner. These days, Google God is beckoned more.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I used to read the dictionary for the fun of it ha!
    weird that I am more fluent in English than my indigenous language, I know I should feel some sort of way about all that but well this is what the education system turned me into, even my thoughts are in English.. by the generation which comes after me wouldn’t be surprised if it all dies out..
    makes one think
    ~B

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The best way to increase kids’ vocab is to give them access to a wide variety of books and encourage them to read. It doesn’t matter what they pick. The goal is to instill a love of reading and vocabulary acquisition will follow.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Carol. I think this is a common belief and probably that’s why my mother inculcated this habit of reading a lot in me. But in my opinion, reading books doesn’t ensure good vocab since I often tend to make a shadow answer as per the word usage or get lazy to search for the meaning as it hampers my flow. Hence, the word ignored. And therefore, the word in singularity becomes hard to decipher. But yeah, it varies depending on people.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Good point. Eventually repetition builds understanding of the word but it’s a slow process. I like reading on Kindle mainly because if you come across a word you don’t know, you can select it and the definition pops up. So convenient compared to looking it up in a hardcopy or even online dictionary.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I love the humour in this piece, Shruti. And your subtle use of English would put many of my country’s speakers and writers to shame. Language is both a form of communication and a tool for self-expression, so there are always going to be conflicts. If you’re interested, I have, over the years as a writer, posted several series of pieces on the use of language and the choices available for different words. You’ll find them listed here: https://stuartaken.net/category/word-choice/ Keep writing your blog; it’s a refreshing view for those of us stuck with our Western viewpoint!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Stuart! Well, that’s the irony that always stirs up that even though we speak English on daily basis, but yet, some words never surface in our conversations. WHAT’S THE POINT OF THEM? XD

      And totally agree that language is just a medium to deliver across your message but we still tend to have our latent biases when a person is good or bad with a language. This definitely is an endless debate. Will surely go through your blog. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

      Like

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