Word-busting is a must for children as they begin acquiring authentic literacy skills and building their treasure trove of words for academic and career success. While this strategy is often linked with brain development, growing intelligence and scaffolding knowledge in children, it is also very useful for adults. It fires up our brain connectors and engages us in a process that keeps senility and dementia at bay.
When we word-bust, we first explore the meaning of the term we wish to learn more about. The dictionary is a perfect place to start. These days, we have multiple dictionaries available online. Google provides a quick reference on smart phones and the like. The good old printed dictionary works well too. Whatever your preference, there is no excuse for not looking up the meaning of words we don’t know or are unsure about.
Definitions often give clues about words that are associated or connected with the term. In word-busting decolonization, for example, we discovered that the process is interactive. It requires recognition of a colonial status and involves both the colonizers and the colonized.
Some dictionaries provide a pronunciation guide and the etymology of the word. You can easily search for synonyms and antonyms – these are usually very helpful and add new words to leverage in speaking and writing. Taking a deeper dive - or cracking the coconut wide open to apply that analogy – we are introduced to other significant terms that are frequently associated with or used in the same context.
Hence, decolonization is often connected with discourse regarding self-determination, political status, identity, compensatory justice, cultural and political sovereignty, and economic sustainability. In word-busting, we refer to these affiliated words as the family of terms that each word travels with. Exploring each of these related concepts expands one’s word power exponentially.
There is also another way to decode words. Each complex or compound word is comprised of a root word and value-added prefixes or suffixes. Studying how these features are used in other words can provide a deeper perspective and understanding of the term in consideration. So, the “de” in decolonization is worthy of further examination.
Detox means to get rid of toxins in the body. Derail means to sidetrack or be pushed off course. Decry means to publicly denounce. Debunk means to expose or demystify. De-junk means to get rid of unnecessary belongings. All of these prefixes enhance the root word but do not equate in meaning. They do, however, give us a more in-depth understanding of what is meant by using the “de” at the beginning of a word. Essentially, it means to move away from or change a condition or status. By breaking down the word and analyzing its parts, one can get a good idea of how to use the word appropriately.
Another strategy associated with word-busting relates to exploring the etymology of the word. That universe can be both interesting and surprising. Take the word, sincere. Most people would claim to know its meaning – someone who is truthful, honest, trustworthy, genuine, free from pretense or deceit. When did the word originate and how was it used?
As the Roman Empire began to grow in riches, the noble class expanded. Their demand for ornately carved wooden furniture increased significantly. Artisans who crafted such furniture could not keep up with the demand, so they began to take shortcuts especially when they were asked to repair furniture. Rather than replacing the wood in bug-infested pieces, they began to fill holes and patch the wood with wax. Soon, merchants and nobles became irate as they were being shortchanged. Smart artisans began to post signs in their shops: Sin Cera, which means “without wax” in Latin. That gave rise to its initial meaning: “genuine!”
The important lesson to remember is that words introduce us to whole new worlds if we explore them thoroughly. Continuing to read, even when you don’t understand the words being used, is reckless. You also limit the chances of growing your word power substantially. Bust open every word you read or hear that you do not know. Make sure the children in your life are word-busting too! This practice is sure to yield a huge return on your investment.