Three word lists
Sometimes it is legitimate to ask, ‘Do we always need to know what words mean?’ and also maybe,’Can we sometimes usefully make up the meanings of words?’
I think you can, if only to show how very important context is to understanding.
A simple exercise for a writing group is the good old ‘Three Word List’.
Give the members a handout with a list of words in groups of three and ask them to write something using all the words in one group of three. Sounds simple? This is one list that I have used and had a lot of fun with:
Write a paragraph using the three words from one line:
- Ainu zygoma turbary
- Xebec polacre bunt
- Bhang darnel godetia
- Izzard quadrat caudle
- Car house dog
NB. Is it necessary to know what words mean? Or, is it necessary to invent meanings for words?
After they have all groaned, and suggested that they might just go with the last three words, encourage them to consider carefully what it says at the end and to be a bit more daring and adventurous.
Give them ten to fifteen minutes, or ask for about 100 to 150 words.
Share some or all of their efforts and the following example.:
An example of piece written using the words from the second line:
In Xebec, population 8,042 at the last count, the problems of global warming can be seen in microcosm at their most devastating.
The rising temperatures have left the staple crop of polacre shrivelling in the fields forcing the local people to fall back on the coarser alternative of bunt. Bunt is too coarse for the digestive systems of the children, causing symptoms similar to colic and doing irreparable damage to their stomach linings, bringing severe discomfort and eventually early death, without treatment. The Xebecese contribute nothing to global warming. Their carbon footprint, like their access to medical care, is nil.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Is this easy to understand? Is there any problem with any of the vocabulary?
There is actually a problem but hopefully it is not immediately apparent.
Give out a list of definitions of all the unfamiliar words to the members:
Definitions: (Three word lists)
A member of a Caucasoid people, in Japan and (USSR), with hairy bodies or their language
Leaves of Indian hemp, mixed with resin and used as a narcotic/intoxicant
Baggy part of a net/sail etc. Or 2) Reverse loop in aerobatics
Large, short horned Indian antelope
Warm, thin, spied gruel for invalids
Grass (now rare in UK)
Coarse grained metamorphic rock
An element with an atomic number between 89 and 103
Free flowering hardy annual
Small three-masted Mediterranean vessels
Archaic word for the letter z
Three-masted Mediterranean merchant vessel
Small metal block used by printers in spacing
Bony arch on each side of scull of vertebrates, joining cranial and facial bones.
Oscillation of lake waters due to variation in barometric pressure
Large rapacious predatory bird
Land where turf or peat may be dug for fuel
Ask them to work individually, in pairs or, perhaps if stuck after that, as a group, to decide which words fit which definitions.
After a suitable amount of time and discussion, give out the real definitions so that they can see how they did:
Definitions: (Three word lists) Answers:
Ainu: A member of a Caucasoid people, in Japan and (USSR), with hairy bodies or their language
Bhang: Leaves of Indian hemp, mixed with resin and used as a narcotic/intoxicant
Boscage: Wooded scenery
Bunt: Baggy part of a net/sail etc. Or 2) Reverse loop in aerobatics
Nilgai: Large, short horned Indian antelope
Caudle: Warm, thin, spied gruel for invalids
Darnel: Grass (now rare in UK)
Gneiss: Coarse grained metamorphic rock
Actinide: An element with an atomic number between 89 and 103
Godetia: Free flowering hardy annual
Xebec: Small three-masted Mediterranean vessels
Izzard: Archaic word for the letter z
Polacre: Three-masted Mediterranean merchant vessel
Quadrat: Small metal block used by printers in spacing
Zygoma: Bony arch on each side of scull of vertebrates, joining cranial and facial bones.
Seiche: Oscillation of lake waters due to variation in barometric pressure
Skua: Large rapacious predatory bird
Turbary: Land where turf or peat may be dug for fuel
Now, look back at the article about the people of Xebec and their problems with crops and global warming, which hopefully they had accepted as perfectly understandable and probably true.
Obviously it is absolute rubbish!
Presumably they too will have entered into the spirit of the exercise and written some nonsense pieces.
Discuss what this means with regard to understanding through context and also for the reluctance of some aspiring writers to be adventurous with language.
(Category: Writing Session.)
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Tags: Vocabulary,Language,Creative Writing,Imagination Blog 17