Hello, my name is Kim, and I’m a word-aholic.
I fell in love with words at a young age. It began – as it always does – just as innocent fun. When all my classmates were out on the playground for recess, I would sneak into the library and look through the big dictionary. I thought it was totally cool that this one book had a pedestal; its own private stand.
Soon, I was coercing my friends into going with me. “Are you chicken?” I’d say. We would play the “dictionary game” – each of us closing our eyes and randomly flipping through the flimsy pages, stopping when the energy felt right. Then everyone else would pick the hardest word on the page. You had to memorize the word, its spelling, its meaning – you had to know the word.
Of course, we got caught and usually were ushered out of the library for a turn on the swings or the monkey bars. We would lurk on the edges of the playground, sulking and scowling at anyone who invited us to play four-square. One of my friends began bringing a pocket dictionary to school so that we could play at recess without causing a problem, but it didn’t have as many words, and it didn’t have a lot of the better words. For a quick fix, it was okay.
I loved junior high English. It fed my need for words and gave me new and exciting ways to explore language. We got to make posters for our vocabulary assignments, or we could look up “challenge” words for extra credit. We were encouraged to explore words in new ways, and I used to tell people I wanted to be an etymologist. Of course, most of my friends would reply, “You don’t even like bugs.”
For many years, I hid my nerdiness from others. I couldn’t have survived high school otherwise. I denied knowing the Greek or Latin root of a word, alternate definitions, or even what part of speech it was. But secretly, I kept a dictionary close at hand. “For homework,” I would tell people. But always, I was feeding my habit.
Today, I am pleased to be able to admit my word nerdiness publicly. I no longer worry that others will find me odd or that I will somehow stick out in society. True, my family won’t play Scrabble with me, but I have an ap for that! My vocabulary isn’t pompous or pretentious because I don’t let it be. I don’t need to try to impress anyone. I’ve got my degrees, I do my writing, and I beat the Scrabble ap enough to feel confident in my language skills without flaunting them. I miss the days in the library, though, with musty-smelling paper and stiff bindings that crackle as you flip the big dictionary open to the page of your choice. Anyone wanna play?