Sometimes I wad up paper and throw it at my students. Let me explain.

When I was a high school student, we did something called WAD words. Word-ADay. And that was something. I remember trying to be clever and incorporating them into a speech at graduation. Some of them I internalized. I think we had a class dance.

As a high school teacher, I recently got in the habit of doing my own rendition of WAD words. When it becomes clear that a certain word would be helpful in our collective lexicon, I write it on a piece of paper, wad it up, and throw at a student. This is not as adversarial (WAD#15) as it might sound.

Here are a few words that I think everyone should know and why:


Every word has it. Connotation is the baggage a word carries. Connotation can be positive, negative, neutral, public, private, and disputed. Because of connotation, synonyms are myths. The opposite of connotation is denotation, and denotation is the most literal understanding of a word.

Synonym & Antonym:

The word part -nym means name. Synonym is same name and Antonym is the opposite of that. I used to publicly proclaim that I was pro-synonym because a lot of my students would make public declarations against the need to “have more than one word that means the exact same thing.” Now I have the position that synonyms don’t exist. Words have similar meanings but each word is unique and, because each word carries different CONNOTATION and thus has different effects on the audience, synonyms don’t exist. Oak and tree are not the “exact same thing.”

Schadenfreude & Zeitgeist

Sometimes a language needs a phrase or idea that we can’t encapsulate in one word. And then you look over your neighbor’s fence and see that their language has a word for it. What do you do? Steal it. Most languages do this. I’d say all, but then I’d have to do some research. Schadenfreude is the feeling if enjoying the pain of others. The zeitgeist is the prevailing mood or spirit of the times. In 2016, the zeitgeist is one in which we need the word schadenfreude to accurately explain how things are.


A paradox is a contradiction that reveals a truth. It was the best of times and worst of times. I love it and I hate it. You have to lose your life in order to gain it. He is the most extroverted introvert I have ever met. Etc.

Here’s one I just read to my kids as we were getting ready for bed the other night:

“People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time. If the children had ever thought so, they were cured of it now.”

– C.S. Lewis in The Lion, The Witch, And the Wardrobe

Good AND terrible. I want to go on and on about this, but I think I need to get dressed and go to to school instead. Maybe I’ll do it there.

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