Saturday, November 14, 2009

Getting Schooled!

I met a new word today: obstreperous
Now I'm not bragging or anything, but it's not often I get to meet new words.
Being an introverted kinda guy, I tend to be quite shy when confronted with unknown vocabulary. It takes me a while to get to know it better; warm up to it if you will.
Fact is, I read a lot, or used to anyway, so at my age, finding a new word is sort of unknown territory.
It's like waking up and suddenly realizing that I'm stupid. Illiterate even.
It is difficult to believe that in all the stuff I've read, I never once came across the word obstreperous.
Is it even an English word? Where and how the hell is one supposed to use it?
In all the gin joints in all the world, obstreperous had to walk into mine. There I was, minding my own business, feeling all good about myself, when obstreperous comes along to knock me off of my pedestal. My self esteem took a large dive when I met obstreperous.
I like words. Dabble in etymology I do.
For instance, the word segue is of Italian origin, first appearing around the eighteenth century in reference to transitions in musical scores. Modern usage of segue is from the twentieth century. The nineteen fifties, if I remember correctly(it was 1958.Ha!).
Okay, okay. I only remember that cause I looked it up to impress some kids at school.
I have a thing for obscure and esoteric facts. For some odd reason, I tend to remember them.
Which is why it surprised me when obstreperous faced me down.
I looked it straight in the eye. My upper lip quivered and perspiration broke out on my forehead. I snarled, growled even, waved my arms up and down in some unholy gesture to make it go away.
Obstreperous just stared back at me, unflinching, unrelenting, mocking me by returning my overtures with a cold, clinical composure.
I was broken.
With shaking hand, I reached over and consulted Miriam Webster.
For those still reading, obstreperous is defined as noisy and stubbornly defiant.
Where did I happen upon this word that so maliciously challenged my intellect? Did I meet it at a crossroads? Did I discover it while muttering some ancient Latin incantation? Did it arise from a bejeweled wooden box clearly labeled "do not open?"
Not quite.
Try a list of vocabulary words.
For tenth graders.

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