Ren Powers

Ren Powers

Use vocabulary as a puzzle game

The Free Press celebrates Family Literacy Week 2023

By Ren Powers

A favourite movie of mine growing up was The Road to El Dorado. As a toddler, I just liked the colourful animation, but as I got older, I started to pay closer attention. Often, my parents would laugh at wordplay I didn’t understand. For instance: ‘Let your sword do the talking!’ ‘I will. It will be loquacious to a fault.’

Loquacious? What in the world?

Nowadays, it’s easy to Google words we don’t know and get a simple definition in seconds. If we’re in a hurry, this is very helpful, but what if we have some extra time? Maybe we’re sitting in a waiting room or have a five-hour layover in Toronto. What if widening our vocabulary could be made into a puzzle game?

‘Loquacious’ is not a common word, but we use words that end in ‘ous’ all the time. Nervous, generous, hilarious, gorgeous. So what is ‘ous’? Like many words in English, it comes from Latin, and it means ‘full of.’ A person who is nervous is ‘full of’ nerves. These words are usually qualities. A ‘hilarious’ comedian has the quality of ‘being funny.’

So, we know that ‘loquacious’ is a quality that someone/thing is full of. But full of what? In this case, ‘loqua’ is the old Latin for ‘speak.’ So, a loquacious person is a person who talks a lot; ‘full of speaking.’

A good dictionary tells us the history of words and the ‘puzzle pieces’ they’re made of. There are many, like ‘ous’, that are handy to know when trying to crack the code of unknown words.

This is a game for everyone: language learners wanting to build their vocabulary quickly, parents with kids learning how to read, etc.

If you know enough puzzle pieces, you too can be ‘loquacious to a fault.’

Ren Powers is a LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) instructor and program facilitator for CCPL.

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