“The Times they are a-changing,” quoted Bob Dylan so many years ago. Whether this was an example of introspective philosophy or a nod toward society in general, probably no truer words have ever been spoken. I recall metal Pac-Man lunch boxes, Castle Grayskull, and only stressing about when I would be getting another Egg McMuffin from McDonald’s.
Now, two out of the three aforementioned items are extinct. Gone. Fads of a bygone era. And much in the same way, terms from yesteryear, once in vogue, can become extinct as well. But with the power of the internet, beloved if not strange words do not have to be as rare as an albino alligator. Or discovering a metal lunch box at a hobby shop.
As a teacher for well over a decade, providing students with vocabulary lessons can sometimes feel as painful as a root canal. The interest level remains lower than watching paint peel. And some instructors, middle school or otherwise, feel this is a waste of quality education time, that the teaching of vocabulary should be properly infused into other mechanical instruction lessons, such as comprehension and context clue guesswork. But one site, known as Savethewords.org, serves as an eye-opener for students and teachers alike and welcomes the opportunity to appreciate old terms that are, um…brand new to almost everybody!
Allow me to explain. Words on this graffiti-laden website are all in danger of becoming a distant memory in Oxford’s dictionary. These terms range from the obscure to the ludicrous, some that face the troubled test of time due to present-day life. Example: Ten Cent Store. Many moons ago, the prevalence of this term was probably on the tongues of many, but one must wonder if most people alive today have ever stepped foot in this kind of shop!
Running your mouse over the words invites a relatively annoying insistence to choose the word you are pointing at for adoption. Thankfully, sound can be muted. A click on each word invites a definition, along with the term’s part of speech and an example sentence. Upon registering for the site (no worries, you will receive no junk mail, nor does it cost anything to register), you merely have the option to adopt the word by pressing the adopt button. A sworn oath stipulates that you will do your best to use the word as much as possible and to the best of your ability.
The educational experiences in a language arts or creative writing class with Savethewords.org are endless. Each class can adopt a set of words, creating a unique word wall experience unlike the drab word walls of other classes. A set of these nearly extinct terms can be used to create a short story. Journal entries can be utilized that invite students to pretend they are this nearly-terminated word and to discuss, from the word’s point of view, its day-today worries of existence. The etymology of a word can be researched online and discussed, with specific attention to historical perspective. And perhaps, most important, is the “ownership value” tantamount in education. Educators the world over strive for students to “own their education” by making the teachings relevant and important in their lives. What can be more essential than adoption of a nearly extinct term in a language arts class? Students can choose, either at home or media center at school, their own word to adopt.
The Sega Genesis is no longer sold in Childworld Toy Stores. In fact, Childworld is also long gone. One of my favorite snack of all time, P.B. Crisps, created by Planters suffered the fate of extinction as well. Words carry with them power, wisdom, and insight. Every year, some are added while others are eliminated. The site Savethewords.org may not rescue them all, but in the meantime this tiny speck on the world wide web carries with it educational relevance.