By most any standard, I’m a pretty lousy Rotarian – having my irons in too many fires to ever see this service club make it to the front burner of my life. I’m the Rotary Club equivalent of the church person who attends once a month and expects a fine sermon from the senior pastor and an entertaining worship service!
But a Rotary Club project that I am fond of and always participate with is the Dictionary Project – where we give the 1400 students in Washington County Schools a dictionary of their own to possess and use. We break into teams and cover the schools with a little presentation.
I am impressed every year at every place I have gone at how attentive the children are and how well-organized and orderly are the classes. The kids really are simply a lot of fun to meet! I do the part of the program on “how to use your new dictionary.”
After a couple of “speed rounds” of finding common words, I talk about the primary usage of a dictionary to give us word definitions – describing as well that some words have various meanings. Since my favorite word “salubrious” is not in this elementary dictionary, the word I use to illustrate definitions is “salsa” (which as I’m sure you all know is more than just a spicy dip or sauce!). The last several years there has been a child in the class who also knew it to mean a style of dance or music. And then I always surprise one of my partners by asking him to demonstrate the dance!
Is it -ant or -ent?
I have never been a great speller, and I feel that one of the great advances in civilization not far removed from Gutenberg is the computer spell check. Yet there are times when I still use a dictionary to figure out how to spell something. Somewhere in my attention deficit disorder-afflicted educational career, I completely missed whatever spelling rules govern –ent and –ant endings. So, I put the words “pendant” and “pendent” on the board and asked the kids to choose which was correct. It was an even split of hands raised. So … to the dictionaries! I was praying that a girl would find it first … and one did, because I had a pink soccer ball pendant/pendent from my family’s Potomac Bead Company ownership to hang around her neck! She was mighty pleased indeed!! Oh… which is correct?… you don’t know? LOOK IT UP!
Corrected by a 3rd Grader
A final moment was to also give each student a bookmark courtesy of Hagerstown Community College – which said on it “see you at HCC in 2022.” And I mentioned as they were being distributed that the college slogan is “stay near, go far.” But one of the little girls corrected me and said, “No it is ‘stay CLOSE, go far!’” She is correct! And, what does that illustrate? (… beyond my ignorance? … and beyond that a good slogan goes a long way?) It is an illustration of how a dictionary may be used to find synonyms (and I just had to look up how to spell that word!)!