As a young boy in primary school, my interest in reading was sustained by poring over Enid Blyton's books, particularly the Famous Five and Secret Seven series. Whenever I come across a new word, I would borrow my father's pocket-sized Collins English-Malay dictionary. That tiny book became my reference companion for a few years until my father, either on seeing my keen reading habit or wanting his own dictionary back, bought me a thick full-fledged dictionary published by Larousse. I was in awe when I received it as a present. It must have cost my father a bomb to buy it and I treasured it very much.
If I come across new words while reading such thrillers, I never stop to check their meaning in the dictionary. It spoils the momentum. Usually I just try to guess what they mean from the context of the sentence. Only after finishing the book would I flip the dictionary to check if my guess was right... but I'll do that only if I remember or if the word interests me. Sometimes I wouldn't bother... especially if I think the word is too complicated and that I'd never use it myself, either in speech or in writing. Sounds like I'm limiting my vocabulary, but hey... there are millions of words out there, so it's okay if we don't know a few.
I was listening to a classic song recently when I heard a particular word that I didn't know the meaning of. I googled the lyrics and part of it I reproduce here :
You drove me, nearly drove me, out of my head
While you never shed a tear
Remember, I remember, all that you said
You told me love was too plebeian
Told me you were through with me and...
The word that stumped me is plebeian. According to my dictionary, the word means something relating to ordinary people or the common folk. If used as a noun, it is a degrading word for someone of low social class. Now how's that for an insult.
Click on this link to have a listen to the Susan Boyle version of the song -> Cry Me A River
Ok then, for good measure, I'll give you another word that is in my `hard to understand' category - narcissistic. I'm having trouble even pronouncing it. I first came across this word in a novel but I can't remember the novel's title. It means having an obsession with one's own image and ego.
So there you have it - plebeian and narcissistic. Two words I doubt I'll ever use...