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Word to Your Mother: 5 Ways to Grow a Vibrant Vocabulary

Are you hungry? According to Susan Engel, a developmental psychologist and educator, curiosity is an appetite. And yet hunger is likely the most essential ingredient for acquiring and utilizing new words. In my required college writing classes, I routinely asked students about their personal goals. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, college students often listed ‘improving their vocabulary’ as a goal.

From classrooms to cocktail parties, this topic seems to find me. There are the word nerds like myself, who find the discussion of Latin roots titillating, and the word wishers, who regret they cannot recall the plethora of the words they once crammed into their brains for the SAT. And there are even the word alarmists, who fear that emoticons and text vernacular are replacing lucid expression.

What the party goers and college students (sometimes they are one and the same) have in common is that they are hungry for new ways to grow their word bank. But according...

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