We add new words to our vocabulary every day. Many seep in through osmosis and require repetition to ensure they are fully understood. Unlike the phrases spawned by movements, such as “Arab Spring” or “#MeToo”, words don’t create tremors that register on the Richter scale.

Likewise, the lone poppy in a wheat field waves mostly unnoticed. But when you stumble on one year after year, it signals its own subtle message: be aware of different and beautiful things that wave in fields of the ordinary.

So as unusual as this sight is, it’s emblematic of something else we stumble on every day. An expanse of wheat with its striking poppies is like a sea of text dotted by words we rarely encounter. Take these examples from the recent daily media:

The most fatuous regulation
Single out for opprobrium
Anodyne political conversations
The mood was febrile

The urge to pass over unusual, distinctive words is real. But each time we do, we lose a level of understanding and miss out on the true message. So, the point is simple: notice the interesting and complex words that pop up or stare at you from your page or screen, and heed them just as you would the poppy. You may think their use contradicts the mantra of keeping writing simple, but these words beckon us to pay attention to varied and rich language.

The dictionary, please!

Post contributed by Eric Schallenberg