19. Education

I once took a vocabulary class that was part of an adult “continuing education” curriculum at our local college. It was an interesting class in that the teacher had a huge etymological dictionary from which he’d explore with us the backgrounds and histories of the subject words. The images that these histories would arouse made the words come alive.

Let me give you an example: The word coward is easy enough to know, right? Everyone knows what a coward is. But the etymology (origin) of the word shows that it is somehow rooted in a reference to animals, namely lions. Here’s what The Oxford English Dictionary says of the word: Said of a lion or other beast borne as a charge: Having the tail drawn in between the legs.

Now, think back on the movie, The Wizard of Oz. Remember the Cowardly Lion? Do you remember what the lion would do whenever he was frightened? He would hold the end of his tail – which was tucked between his legs – in his hands. For me, it’s an image that confirms the meaning and gives new life to the word.

Day 19 Guide

Today, ask your children about their teachers. Find out who among them makes the subject matter most interesting, and write them a short note of thanks. In whatever way you’re able, help your children to understand the value of knowledge.

© 2006, Levi Hill

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