Friday, September 2, 2011

Forgotten Word Friday: Ameliorate

Classic books can be hard to get into, hard to keep reading, and sometimes hard to understand, but one of the things I love about them is their wealth of Forgotten Words.  Those words like alacrity, perspicacious, and vermiculations.  I keep a Post-It note by my bed so I can write them down.

It wasn't until I was browsing through SAT prep materials months ago that I realized how limited my vocabulary is.  I am an avid reader and writer, but most of the words I had never come across before.  My question is when did we lose sight of these words?  Most Young Adult books today don't use these words and I wonder why.  Was it because teens no longer used them that YA authors stopped writing with them?  Or was it because YA books and the internet stopped using interesting words that teens no longer say them?  I can't help but wonder.

Last night I came across the word illimited and realized that I really want to get back into studying vocabulary.  I think what might help me become better at this is to write the occasional blog post about words I discover.  I wanted to start with illimited... until I looked it up and realized that it only meant "incapable of being limited."  Makes sense!  So I decided to start with ameliorate.

Word: Ameliorate.

How it's pronounced: uh-meel-yuh-rate.

Meaning: To make better or more bearable. To improve.  (Merrium Webster)

Where I found it:  I re-discovered this word while reading Chapter 45 (Troy's Romanticism) of Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy.  The second paragraph reads:
"There is always an inertia to be overcome in striking out a new line of conduct - not more in ourselves, it seems, than in circumscribing events which appear as if leagued together to allow no novelties in the way of amelioration."
I found this sentence hard to understand, but a paraphrase might be,
"There is always a resistance to change that needs to be overcome when doing something in a new way.  The resistance is not so much as in giving up our own resistance to change, but in limiting events which seem to be joined together to ensure that nothing unusual happens in the way of improvement."

Word picture:  Word pictures are sometimes used to help recall a word.  I'm terrible at coming up with them but here's one I thought of when I first learned this word.


AMALIE got high RATINGS because her key word methods IMPROVED/AMELIORATED the vocabulary of participants.

How to impress your friends:

At work: "Man, I really hope this meeting will ameliorate the work conditions around here."

Politics: "Does anyone really believe that the President's new bill will ameliorate our economy?"

For parents: "Your grades need some major amelioration before we'll even consider letting you go to that party on Friday."

For teens: "Dude, they've really ameliorated the quality of their pizza!"

How would you use "ameliorate" in everyday life?  If you use it in an everyday blog post I'll link back to you here in this post =]

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