Without “Very”, A Limited Vocabulary?

Have you eliminated a word from your vocabulary?

My vocabulary isn’t great. While I have taken note of numerous words and phrases that I would like to use, either I do not remember them when I should or the opportunity to wield them has yet to present itself. A decrease in what little I already have sounds like a personal disservice.

Yet, since I came across a quote from the movie Dead Poets’ Society two years ago, I have consciously stopped using the word “very”. I still know its definition and function. At least, that is what I would like to believe. Though, frankly, there are moments when—despite being certain where to place it in a sentence—I second-guess what it means. Maybe that is what happens when you intentionally delete a word from your usage? Its clarity begins to dull and what you have left is a faint shadow.

I believe I am also doing the same thing to “really”. When I feel that I am about to write it, I pause. I struggle just to pick the word I could choose as its replacement. It’s a difficult exercise, one that I sometimes lose.

Writing and speaking are two of the best arenas to display your word knowledge. Admittedly, the former is easier for me while the latter presents a challenge, specially when I do it spontaneously. I pause mid-sentence. My fingers and hands begin a whirring motion, like cranking an unseen motor connected to my brain so it could recall a better word or phrase than the one I possess at the moment.

The suggestions (picture taken from Google)
The suggestions (picture taken from Google)

Just a few days ago, an online contact posted a list of words. They were suggestions; in place of “very” and whatever choice adjective, another word was given. Why use two when one would do? That advice was useful when I was with the school paper. Yet, as I looked at the list, I wondered if I could remember all these alternatives, more so if they would make a great difference in the comprehension of what I am saying.

Now that I think of it, I wonder if the deletion of “very” and the limitation of “really” have done me any good.

“So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.”

― N.H. KleinbaumDead Poets Society


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