Vocabulary Fail (or Win?)

So, I was reading over part of my novel the other night, and I came across a word that I didn’t know. Yes, you read that right. I didn’t know a word in something I wrote. I had to look it up. The word was apotropaic, which means “intended to ward off evil,” from Greek apotropaios, from apotrepein, to ward off: apo-, away- + trepein, to turn.

The thing about it is that I don’t remember learning it the first time. It’s not a word you just know, like amulet or talisman or charm would have been, or even a word you might happen upon by chance, like perhaps phylactery. But I had to have learned it at some point, because I used it, and I used it correctly.

It’s a conundrum.

One thought on “Vocabulary Fail (or Win?)

  1. Eva Mc March 9, 2010 / 1:31 am

    I have a theory that sometimes the right words just slide themselves in and get cozy in a sentence. Have you ever stopped to think about what happens to the document once you hit “Save” and “Close”?

    Opposite to the other creatures that come alive in the dark-such as the nymph that always takes the last sip of orange juice and puts the empty carton back in the fridge-these words believe they have a justice to serve. Loyal friends, they are! They insert themselves at the perfect time, in the perfect place to compliment your talents. They don’t steal the show, but manage to tie everything together “just right.”

    The next time you stumble across a word you don’t recall knowing but seem to have ingeniously made use of, say a little thanks to those mysterious, decorative, document-editing companions.

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