Saturday, November 17, 2018 -
Print Edition

Words of wisdom never grow old

I grew up in a house where words were the currency by which my brother and I gained recognition. Unlike most of our peers, where parental approval was dished out for things like making the varsity team or getting straight A’s, my dad’s highest form of praise came as a result of the words we used and how we used them.

It’s no surprise, I suppose, that my brother got his doctorate in English linguistics and I make my living as a wordsmith by writing and teaching. I absolutely loved the form and sound of words as they rolled around in my mouth.

Gargantuan, entropy, neophyte, sophomoric. Each word offered worlds of possibilities in phrases and sentences I could casually throw out like confetti at a parade.

I waited for the chance to put my expanding lexicon into action. When my brother would relentlessly tease me, I would retort with childish indignation: “What a gargantuan oral cavity you have!”

His response — a silent slug in the arm — was predictable, but it was my father’s approving nod from behind the pages of the Wall Street Journal that made the sting worthwhile.

In You Can’t Go Home Again, Thomas Wolfe wrote these powerful words: “You can’t go back home to your family, back  home to your childhoold . . .”

The rest of this article is available in the March 6 IJN print and digital edition only. Contact Carol to order your copy at or subscribe to our online e-Edition.

Amy Lederman

IJN Columnist | Reflections

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