Hearing and saying a few special words shoots me back to the time, place and manner I first learned them. The words have those distinct contexts connected to them, and it’s just cool.
Cog, Cull, Cogent: These might be the three words I remember best from studying many dozens of words for the SAT. I wonder if there is some interesting explanation for the shared letter category.
Languish: I learned this word in 3rd grade by my teacher, Mrs. Z (we only ever abbreviated some complicated Z-letter surname that I never really knew). I remember she would tell us that girls don’t sweat, they glisten… and what it means to languish.
Nonchalant: There was a student teacher in my 5th grade class; she taught us the definition of this word because of a book we were reading. She was cool and nice, and the first time I saw her I thought she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. Her first day in class she was sitting all made up, with nice hair and perfectly manicured nails. Then she stood up, and I was momentarily startled by the size of her caboose.
Quixotic: I took a class on Spanish culture in my second year of college. It was taught by the foremost Spanish teacher – a Ukrainian man named Dr. Washetko. And this took place in Germany, with American students. He loved pointing out all these idiosyncrasies.
We talked about the famous novel Don Quixote de la Mancha in the class with Dr. Washetko, the dissertation-written expert on the subject. He told us how the word quixotic, synonymous with idealistic, originated from the namesake and characteristics of the book’s protagonist, Don Quixote.
I will always remember this word.
Zenith: I remember this word from the first sentence of Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis.