9 min read ⌚
The Complete Handbook for Building a Superior Vocabulary
Want to find out what “circumlocution” and “perspicacious” mean?
And want to be sure to never forget their meanings.
Then Norman Lewis’ Word Power Made Easy is the book you’ve been looking for.
Who Should Read “Word Power Made Easy”? And Why?
As it states under its subtitle, Norman Lewis’ Word Power Made Easy offers a simple step-by-step method aimed at increasing your knowledge and mastery of the English language.
So, if that’s your goal – this is a book you don’t want to miss.
About Norman Lewis
Norman Lewis was an American grammarian and lexicographer, one of the leading authorities on English-language skills.
During his life he published many books on language-related topics, some of which – such as Roget’s New Pocket Thesaurus in Dictionary Form and 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary – are perennial bestsellers.
Word Power Made Easy was first published in 1949 and has gone through several editions since then.
“Word Power Made Easy PDF Summary”
How do you read – let alone -summarize – a book the first sentence of which is: “Don’t read this book”?
Well, the truth is, you can’t: just like Norman Lewis advises in the second sentence, the only thing you can do with a book such as Word Power Made Easy is to work with it, to “talk aloud to it, talk back to it,” to “use your voice, not just your eyes and mind.”
Learning, real learning, goes on only through active participation.
So why would we even bother summarizing Word Power Made Easy?
Well, because we’ve had many people asking us what’s the deal with this book and should they get a copy of it.
And because we really want to tell them that this is one of those books you’ll never get tired of, a book which, just like A Dictionary, you’ll never regret buying – since it will certainly come in handy to you at least from time to time.
And here’s our overview of its content, which, we are aware, doesn’t do this book – by the way, rife with very helpful quizzes, tests, and progress checks – enough justice.
Part One: Getting Off to a Good Start
1. How to Test Your Present Vocabulary
First thing’s first:
Now, why would you care about your vocabulary?
Lewis answers this question straight away by pointing out that there exists ample evidence in favor of a close relationship between vocabulary and success. Put that in the form of a simple equation: more words = more money.
And how many words do you currently know?
Look no further for the answer to this question. The first chapter of Lewis’ book is basically a string of tests aimed at helping you discover whether your current vocabulary is “below average, average, above average, excellent, or superior in range, verbal speed, and responsiveness.”
Let’s just say that we don’t want to share our score with you.
2. How to Start Building Your Vocabulary
Have you ever heard of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis?
If not, it states that language determines your thoughts; in other words, a Russian actually distinguishes more shades of the blue than an American only because there are more words for the nuances in the Russian language.
So, what does that tell you about the necessity of learning new words?
Even though the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is perhaps an exaggeration, its’s undeniable that building your vocabulary will enrich your thinking.
Because words are pictures of things, and because the more things you can name, the clearer you see – and can communicate – the world.
3. How to Talk About Personality Types
In chapter three, you’ll be able to learn numerous words “that describe all kinds and sorts of people, including terms for self-interest, reactions to the world, attitudes to others, skill and awkwardness, marital states, hatred of man, of woman, and of marriage.”
Through great examples, you’ll be able to pick up the difference between an egoist and an egotist, to learn what an ambivert is and that “misogamist” is also a word.
Lewis caps off the three sections of this chapter with the joyful revelation that, through them, you’ve probably already learned more words than you would have in a single year.
And we’re merely at the beginning.
4. How to Talk About Doctors
Have you ever noticed yourself skipping through the boring hospital talk in every second House episode?
Well, here’s your chance to act smart in front of your friends!
In chapter four you’ll learn many words related to both childhood diseases and skeletal deformities, heart and skin ailments, as well as disorders of the nerves and the mind.
5. How to Talk About Various Practitioners
This is the chapter in which you’ll be able to enrichen your vocabulary with some words such as “orthodontist” and “optometrist,” “podiatrist” and “gerontologist.” Also, here you’ll get acquainted with many related words and start becoming more and more conscious of how words work.
6. How to Talk About Science and Scientists
Here you’ll learn the names of some of the more important explorers of knowledge – i.e., the names (and meanings: always meanings) of many different scientific disciplines: “an anthropologist,” “a geologist,” “an entomologist,” “a semanticist,” “a sociologist,” etc. As always, Lewis adds a section in which he explains the etymology of these internationalisms, as well as many tests for self-assessment.
7. How to Talk About Liars and Lying
Not all people who lie are the same. Some of them are consummate liars, while others are congenital liars; the egregious liars are a story for themselves; and the glib liars are capable of distorting facts as effortlessly as saying their names.
8. How to Check Your Progress: Comprehensive Test
Each of the three parts of Lewis’ book ends with a 120-item comprehensive test. Don’t skip this one!
Part Two: Gaining Increased Momentum
9. How to Talk About Actions
Part two moves from nouns to other parts of speech. And chapter nine opens with a bunch of verbs which “accurately describe important human activities.” Learn what “disparaging,” “equivocating,” “militating,” and “obviating” means through examples and funny comments. Of course, all the related words and their etymologies are once again there for your pleasure.
10. How to Talk About Various Speech Habits
These are words “that explore in depth all degrees and kinds of talk and silence.” So, if you want to learn what “taciturn” or “garrulous” means and you don’t want to sound “inarticulate” and “banal” the next time you’re out with your friends – this is the chapter to work with.
11. How to Insult Your Enemies
Everybody is capable of insulting other people, but not everybody is a Shakespeare of insults (by the way, Shakespeare was, indeed, a Shakespeare of insults: look it up). So, here’s your chance to tell your enemies exactly what you think of them, be they sycophants or dilettantes, lechers or kleptomaniacs.
12. How to Flatter Your Friends
On a more positive side, there are also numerous words in the dictionary you can use to flatter your friends. They’re great, true, but some of them are certainly “ingenious,” while others are “magnanimous;” yet a third one may be “perspicacious” – which is why you’d go to him or her to gain some insight into your problems!
13. How to Check Your Progress: Comprehensive Test II
One more 120-item self-assessment test – this time for Part II.
Part Three: Finishing with a Feeling of Complete Success
14. How to Talk About Common Phenomena and Occurrences
The world is full of number of things, claimed once Robert Louis Stevenson, and it’s great when you have the words to name at least some of them. This chapter introduces you to the concepts of “ephemerality” and “cacophony,” while also teaching you what “parsimonious” and “opulent” mean.
15. How to Talk About What Goes On
Sometimes, when you’re not only completely exhausted but also frustrated, you’re, in fact, “enervated.” Other times, when you can’t reach a decision and you are constantly changing your mind, you’re probably “vacillating.” Learn more of the similar here.
16. How to Talk About a Variety of Personal Characteristics
This chapter will teach you some “adjectives that describe insincere humility, dissatisfaction, snobbery, courtesy to women, financial embarrassment, sadness, etc.” So this is where to look for if you want to learn the meaning of words such as “impecunious,” “obstreperous,” and “innocuous.”
17. How to Check Your Progress: Comprehensive Test III
We don’t have to explain to you what you’ll find in this chapter now, do we?
18. How to Check Your Standing as an Amateur Etymologist
Most of the chapters in Lewis’ book start with teaser questions; this chapter reveals the answer to them.
Key Lessons from “Word Power Made Easy”
1. You Are an Amateur at Learning New Words – at Least Compared to Your Child
2. Words Are So Powerful That They Can Radically Change Your Worldview
3. To Get New Ideas – Get New Books
You Are an Amateur at Learning New Words – at Least Compared to Your Child
Norman Lewis starts is book with one rather insulting statement: “Once—as a child—you were an expert, an accomplished virtuoso, at learning new words. Today, by comparison, you are a rank and bumbling amateur.”
However, as he explains further on, this is nothing more but a simple fact!
You see, children are capable of learning at a rate of a several hundred new words per year since the age of four and many of them will acquire recognition vocabularies of about twenty thousand words by the age of ten!
You, on the other hand, should be happy if you increase your vocabulary by as much as fifty words a year – and that is, only if you’re one of the more skillful learners.
Words Are So Powerful That They Can Radically Change Your Worldview
“Increasing your vocabulary does not mean merely learning the definitions of large numbers of obscure words,” writes Lewis, “it does not mean memorizing scores of unrelated terms.” It means something far more – becoming a better, newer you.
Or in the words of Lewis,
[Increasing your vocabulary means] becoming acquainted with the multitudinous and fascinating phenomena of human existence for which words are, obviously, only the verbal descriptions. Increasing your vocabulary—properly, intelligently, and systematically—means treating yourself to an all-round, liberal education. And surely you cannot deny that such an experience will change you intellectually—will have a discernible effect on your methods of thinking—on your store of information—on your ability to express your ideas—on your understanding of human problems.
To Get New Ideas – Get New Books
Think of it this way: many of the words you know now have been invented at some point in time by certain poets, philosophers, scientists, thinkers.
Before Freud, nobody could say “Oedipus’ complex” or “superego;” and yet, nowadays, so many people in the world know what they mean.
The point is that words structure the universe into comprehensible patterns of meaning; and that acquiring new words always means acquiring new ideas as well.
So, if you want to learn new words, in addition to reading books such as Word Power Made Easy, you can also try reading new books of any type – but never dumbed-down versions of them. Old words bring nothing new with them; but new words – bring whole universes.
And this all reminds us of a great Michael Blumenthal poem called “Inventors” in which the poet talks about the miraculous power of newly invented words. This is the beautiful final stanza – which we felt that we needed to quote in full:
Just think of it—
your tongue rolling over the first pharmacopeia
like a new lover, the shuddering thrill of it,
the way the air parts in front of your mouth, widening
the world in its constant uncertainty. Go on.
Let your mind wander. Imagine being the first to say:
I love you, oregano, onomatopoeia.
Just imagine it.
Like this summary? We’d like to invite you to download our free 12 min app for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.
“Word Power Made Easy Quotes”Words are the instruments by means of which men and women grasp the thoughts of others and with which they do much of their own thinking. They are the tools of thought. Click To Tweet If a student has a superior vocabulary… it will probably follow that he will do better work academically. Click To Tweet Educational research has discovered that your I.Q. is intimately related to your vocabulary. Click To Tweet No matter what your age, you can go on learning efficiently, or start learning once again if perhaps you have stopped. Click To Tweet Successful people have superior vocabularies. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
Norman Lewis Word Power Made Easy offers an alternative way to learn new words; it is also a better way to learn them since the book rightfully supposes that words can only be absorbed properly if placed in certain context and that’s the way the book introduces most of them.
So, you want to become a word-wizard?
Here’s a great place to start!
Learn more and more, in the speed that the world demands.