Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Joy of Lex(icons)

I was re-reading The Reluctant Widow by the divine Georgette Heyer when I ran across a word which I could easily figure out in context, but which was somewhat new to me. That is to say, I didn't recall running across it in conversation or in other books.

The word is "matutinal" as in "the matutinal habits of apparently a hundred cockerels..."
I figured it meant of the morning: cocks crow at dawn, matins are morning prayers and likely share a root, and it made sense that it would be the antonym of nocturnal, or if not the antonym, then the word that corresponds to the morning time period as nocturnal corresponds to the evening.

Why does any of this matter? Because at my age it's unusual (but delightful!) to be surprised by an English word unfamiliar to me. It's also delightful because when I work with my little Reading Pals I try very hard to help them understand the idea that when they're reading and they come across a strange or new to them word, sound it out and put it in context.

In this case, languid Francis Cheviot was explaining to his hostess that he is up far before noon (his usual time to wake) despite having an undisturbed night save for a few minor incidents, such as the aforementioned hundred cockerels. From that it's easy to figure out that if Francis was listing all the things that had him up way too early in the morning, then matutinal (which Spellcheck is insisting is misspelled and couldn't possibly be a real word--which is why you can't rely on these programs) in context has to do with mornings. It's easy enough to keep on reading and not let a stray new word stop me in my tracks.

This is not a passage I could easily use with a 3rd grader, my usual age group, but it makes me feel better about being able to share the experience that no matter how many years you've been reading, the basic skills stay the same and will help you through life.

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