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National Editorials & Columns

Are we our language? Well — yes and no

Our language identifies ourselves in many ways. As long as we accept that it does identify us, and we want that identification, there is nothing wrong with it. 

If we want something that requires a different kind of language, we can learn what we need. 

That is the wonder of our brain and that is part of literacy. Literacy is a learned art and thankfully one the majority of people can learn if they so choose.

One thing language identifies us with is our degree of literacy and education. Through misuse of language we may make a bad impression and pay the cost of the bad impression in the situation we are in, which might be as serious as being passed over for a job we want, or losing the chance to get to know someone.

I remember when I was teaching, I was trying to make a point and said, “The joy of language is you can go from talking to your friends to talking to the President.”

What surprised me was what one young man said, “I don’t have to change my language to talk to the President. He has to change it for me.”

That statement bothered me. I wasn’t saying the President was better, but that there is a common type of language that would get across ideas with the President and one that would get across ideas with friends. 

Literacy is recognizing the difference and using it. We indeed are in control of our literacy and since there are some things we aren’t in control of, we need to take control of our literacy.

Often overuse of a type of language, or use of that type of language at an inappropriate time, is a sign of a limited vocabulary. Building our vocabulary is a lifelong process. Vocabulary grows just as much after our schooling as it did before.

When we consciously expand our vocabulary, we build it a great deal faster. The more quantity and the more variety of materials we read, discuss, and listen to also increases our vocabulary much faster. 

Just as learning is mainly up to us, so is our vocabulary expansion.

Too many times we take pride in the wrong thing. We forget we are all learners, so no one is better than another. 

If we choose to stop learning and are happy, who can say that isn’t right, but if I have a goal and refuse to learn the necessary items to reach that goal, I am the one who is hurt.

Wrongful pride often comes in putting labels on people. Putting labels on ourselves is also wrong. Just as part of literacy is goal making, so is vocabulary building. It also can be fun.

Part of building vocabulary is looking at words differently and being inventive. Since Halloween is near, I want to share some “Hink Pinks” that Kelly Riley wrote many years ago. 

What are they?

They are a phrase that consists of two one-syllable rhyming words that fits a given definition, such as “a small stinging insect” is a “wee bee.”

Note the answer is two syllables. Put on your fun cap and see how well your vocabulary can figure these out.

Halloween evening is a…

A spook that flew too near the fire is a…

Two ghosts are a…

A conversation between two flying mammals is a…

Bubble gum for ghosts is…

A skeleton pal is a…

An apple drink for an arachnid is a…

If these were easy try Riley’s “Hinkety Pinketys,” which are based on three syllables.

A bone framework made from Jell-O is a…

One who makes ghost movies is a…

I’ll share some answers next week, but you may come up with even better ones. Maybe you can create some of your own Hink Pinks. 

Until next week — Christine Pauley

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