Vocabulary Workout: Interpret the Titles
Here's a great exercise to strengthen your vocabulary! It'll help you add breadth and depth to your knowledge of words.
To start, focus on a title. Any title! It could be the title of a book, a movie, a song, an album, or a poem. Now: try to interpret that title in three different ways.
Try for a literal interpretation first. Then, go further: Do any of the words have multiple meanings? Could any of the words work figuratively? Could any of them be read as a different part of speech, changing the meaning?
Don't worry if your interpretations are right! We don't care! We just want to come up with possibilities. They're a fun starting place for engaging with titles in a richer, more satisfying way, and when you work hard to invent them, you're adding strength and flexibility to your vocabulary.
If you get stuck, try looking up a key word from the title in a dictionary and skimming the definitions; some might surprise you.
Let's walk through an example!
The Secret Garden is a 1912 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Here's the summary from the publisher: "When orphaned Mary Lennox comes to live at her uncle's great house on the Yorkshire Moors, she finds it full of secrets. The mansion has nearly one hundred rooms, and her uncle keeps himself locked up. And at night, she hears the sound of crying down one of the long corridors. The gardens surrounding the large property are Mary's only escape. Then, Mary discovers a secret garden, surrounded by walls and locked with a missing key. With the help of two unexpected companions, Mary discovers a way in—and becomes determined to bring the garden back to life."
Alright! Let's invent some interpretations. Remember, accuracy doesn't matter. Just creativity!
1. It's titled The Secret Garden because the garden is literally walled off and locked, so it's a secret place.
2. It's titled The Secret Garden because it’s about a garden where secrets can be "planted" and then "grow."
3. It's titled The Secret Garden because there’s something in the book that later is revealed to be a figurative garden. Until the revelation, the garden's gardenness is a secret. Maybe it's the uncle's heart. Maybe it's Mary's.
Let's do another example!
The Terminal is a 2004 movie directed by Steven Spielberg. Here's a summary posted by Nick Riganas on IMDb.com: "The moment Viktor Navorski sets foot on JFK airport, he finds himself on the wrong end of a nasty technicality, as his homeland of Krakozhia has dissolved in violent upheaval, and as a result, his passport is now void. With plans of immigrating to New York, instead, Viktor is unauthorized to leave Kennedy Airport, and unable to return home, he is trapped within the walls of the terminal's international transit lounge... Even though the strict airport official, Frank Dixon, is feeling uncomfortable by his presence, other airport employees, including Amelia, a beautiful flight attendant, consider him a friend. Little by little, as the days turn into weeks, which turn into months, the bustling terminal becomes Viktor's new home: a country within a country, filled with dreams, hopes, and the need for love. When will Viktor reach his goal?"
Here we go! Let's invent some possibilities!
1. It's titled The Terminal because it takes place in an airport terminal.
2. It's titled The Terminal because Viktor's journey terminates (ends) way before he'd planned on it. He can't leave the airport.
3. It's titled The Terminal because it's a commentary on our nation's broken immigration system, which is like a terminal disease in that it steals lives away.
You can do this workout however often you want! Try it the next time you're in a waiting room or a checkout line: use those magazine titles. The effort will strengthen your vocabulary!
Share this post on Facebook.
Subscribe to "Make Your Point" for a daily vocabulary boost.