Sunday, September 6, 2015

     In this new world of un-grammar, misspelling, emojis and all-about-me mentality, why would anyone care about good vocabulary? As an “old-school” English teacher and former runner-up-to-Harry-Crowe-spelling-bee-champion, I am appalled at the grammar and spelling of not just the masses but people actually writing articles and books. Grammar, spelling, “proper” or “appropriate” language are, apparently, passé. So why would anyone care about improving one’s vocabulary?

    In our Toastmaster meetings, there is always a “Word of the Day.” Its purpose is to incorporate into our personal language repertoire some words that may not come to mind in any given situation. Last week’s word was “perfunctory.” The member presenting this word could not pronounce it. That should have been my first clue that this word was not going to be embraced by the three twenty-somethings in the audience. I have wanted to learn and use this word for some time, so I was all over it. “Perfunctory” means without serious thought or focus, cursory, hasty. For example, “The professor gave a perfunctory nod to his students as he entered the room.” He did not look at them with any purpose or intention; it was a superficial glance. 

    If I were to use this word in my daily travels, I might say to the Mc Donald’s worker, “Just give a perfunctory warm-up to that coffee, please.” I might suggest to the clerk at the cleaners, “Please just give that blouse a perfunctory touch-up.” These two people would look at me like I came from another planet. This is a perfunctory attempt to remind people that vocabulary, though important, has gone the way of the leisure suit.