Scene: English class. 9th grade.
English teacher walks in. Goes straight to the blackboard, picks up a piece of chalk and writes a word on the board. ‘Rendezvous’. Turns around and asks the class, ‘Now, who can tell me how this word is pronounced and what it means?’
Silence. Then, abruptly – ‘rendezvoos! ‘rendezwouse!’
Teacher smiled and shook his head. ‘Lemme give you a hint – it’s french’. Silence. Embarassed smiles all over the place. We hate it when we miss a chance to go one up on our teachers, don’t we?
Our teacher walked up to the board, underlined the word twice and said, ‘It’s pronounced ‘rondehvu’. The ‘z’ and ‘s’ are silent, and ‘ren’ is pronounced ‘ron’. Now, any guesses to what it means?’. For a class that didn’t even know how to pronounce the word, expecting them to know its meaning was a very optimistic expectation from our English teacher. Silence.
‘It means a meeting. A pre-arranged meeting.’. Nods all over. ‘Ok, now where were we on the lesson yesterday?’.
30 minutes later, ‘Homework for the day. Find me a word for words that imitate sounds. Clue? It starts with an ‘O”.
I ran to the library during the break to get hold of a dictionary (Google was not around those days, you see). Looked for ‘O’. Hit pay dirt in no time. Onomatopoeia.
I never forgot ‘rendezvous’ and ‘onomatopoeia’ after that day. Even after hundreds of new and old words entering and leaving my active/passive vocabulary, these 2 stayed. It’s amazing how these kinda things happen, right?
It’s been an awesome journey so far, discovering words – a word a day! And there’s enough left to last me a lifetime (if not more).
Oh, did you know there is a word to describe the smell of earth just before it rains or just after a light drizzle (man vasanai, in Tamil)? Petrichor. I can almost smell earth when I say that word. Silly me, eh? 😉