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A short vocabulary lesson

Posted: May 21, 2013 1:51 p.m.
Updated: May 22, 2013 5:00 a.m.

This past weekend, I had the rare, but always enjoyable, visit from my grandparents. I don’t know about you, but anytime I have the opportunity to spend time with them I learn something new; sometimes about myself, sometimes about life, but always it’s something.

This visit in particular I learned not only a new word or two but I also received a lesson on perception. As I sat down at my kitchen table with them, the first thing that was brought up for discussion was my writing. Being the supportive grandparents that they are, after I began working for the Chronicle-Independent they subscribed and now receive each issue of the paper at their home in Anderson. My grandfather, whom I refer to as “Coley,” said the following to me: “your latest column was a little vituperative.” He gets right to the point. I had no idea what that word meant and so I did what I usually do when I don’t know what a word means. I tried to sneakily Google its meaning while pretending I knew exactly what it meant. “Yeah, I know…” was my response as my fingers fumbled around on my phone’s screen. “You don’t know what that means do you?” Couldn’t thwart him. That man is good. Defeated, I told him I didn’t but Google had just come to my rescue.

I was appalled when I read what Google had to tell me. If any of you don’t know the word “vituperative,” it means “containing or characterized by verbal abuse.” The verb definition of this word, “vituperate,” is even more disturbing. “To blame or insult (someone) in strong or violent language.” Synonyms are as follows: revile, abuse, curse.

Not really a word I wanted to hear to describe myself or even be associated with. As I walked out the door, Coley again warned me: don’t be vituperative. This was a lot for me to take in. Not only had I been called a word that I didn’t know the meaning of, it was a word that I had no idea I was even illustrating my life. This also caused me to think about the words “nice” and “kind.” I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine on the differences between the words. A person can be nice but not be kind. Or vice versa. Kindness is the state of your heart and niceness deals more with the outer image of a person.

I know plenty of people who are kind, which in my opinion means they have a good heart that cares about others but that they aren’t really nice people. Sometimes upon first meeting a person you think to yourself “this is such a nice person” only later to find out that they are, in fact, not kind people -- just simply people who know how to make a good first impression. On the flipside of this I know people who upon first meeting I thought to myself “I really do not like this person.” Fast forward to now and they are some of my dearest friends. They have kind hearts but you don’t see that until you get to know them.

Since my grandfather, who I love very dearly and hold in the highest regard, referred to me as being vituperative, I’ve been on guard. The last person I would want to think of me as being vituperative is him, of course, but since he already called it to my attention I have been aware of every little word I say and more so in the way that I say it.

I also learned another word from my grandfather during our little discussion. The word magnanimous. Can’t say I knew what that one meant either, but I was walking out the door as he called to me: “Be magnanimous!” This time I didn’t have to admit to not knowing the definition and, after a quick Google search on my phone, I became the proud owner of a new word for my vocabulary. Magnanimous (adjective): giving and kind. In a few short, but always fulfilling, moments with my grandparents I learned two things: that my least favorite word is vituperative and that I would like my tombstone to simply have my name, the dates that I reigned and the word magnanimous. I guess you could add a vocabulary lesson as the third thing I learned that day. Overall, I gained a new perspective of watching how my words can affect the ways in which I’m described. After reading my latest column, my grandfather believed that I was being somewhat verbally abusive. When a man as great as him points something like that out, there’s only one thing to do -- actively try your hardest to change that perception.

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