On this day in 1932, the following list appeared in Time magazine under the title “The Ten Most Beautiful Words in the English Language”:
dawn, hush, lullaby, murmuring, tranquil, mist, luminous, chimes, golden, melody
The list was compiled by author and lexicographer Wilfred J. Funk (1883-1965), who was the president of Funk & Wagnalls, the publisher of the Funk & Wagnalls Dictionary.
Funk was a lifelong proponent of vocabulary acquisition. From 1945 to 1965, he prepared a monthly feature for Reader’s Digest called It Pays to Increase Your Word Power. Funk’s Word Power quiz featured a collection of words united by a common theme and was one of the magazine’s most popular features. When Funk died in 1965, his son Peter continued the feature, which became It Pays to ‘Enrich’ Your Word Power.
In 1942, Funk co-authored the book 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary. The book was a wildly popular bestseller, leading the way for the numerous vocabulary building books and programs published today (1).
Today’s Challenge: Words to Drop on Your Foot
What are some names of some concrete nouns — words that name tangible things, the kinds of things you can drop on your foot like a baseball, a paper clip, or an apple pie? Learning a new word opens our eyes and our mind to the world and to the ideas around us. This is especially true when we learn a new concrete noun. A concrete noun is a name of a specific, tangible thing. For example, what do you call the ball at the top of a flagpole? It’s called a truck.
As writer Natalie Goldberg explains, concrete nouns help us learn the names of the things that surround us and help to better connect us to our world. Imagine for example, you are out for a walk. Next, imagine you see a tree. It’s not just a tree though because you know its specific name; it’s a “dogwood.” Knowing the names — the specific, concrete names of things – puts you in better touch with your environment and makes you more alert and awake (2).
Using a good dictionary, find 10 concrete nouns that you don’t know the definitions to. Make sure that each word is a concrete noun, a tangible, specific thing that is not a proper noun. For example, if you look up the following words, you’ll discover that each is a concrete noun that names something that is tangible enough to drop on your foot:
appaloosa, arbalest, arame, arrack, balalaika, capuche, demijohn, dromedary, ewer, farthingale
List your 10 concrete nouns in alphabetical order and follow each with its complete definition. Do not include any (capitalized) proper nouns. (Common Core Language 3 – Knowledge of Language)
1- Lexicography: Words That Sizzled. Time 11 June 1965.
2-Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones. Boston: Shambhala, 2005.