It did pay me to increase my wordpower. Not a lot, but a bit

more readers disgustI was an odd child, I suppose. While regular and need I say ‘normal’ kids who are exposed to family strife live in dread that their parents might get divorced, I used to lie awake at night praying the battling senior Lidsters would pack it in.

 I once said that to my late mother-in-law and she replied: “You don’t really mean that.” I responded that she had no idea how much I did mean it. Maybe if they’d been honest about the deficits of their relationship they might have bailed and grabbed much pleasanter lives for themselves.

 Or, maybe my attitude merely serves to explain my own checkered marital history. Never did have much of an example of how a good one works and it’s only taken me many decades and a lot of tribulation to get to a point where I think I might have worked it out.

 Anyway, domestic life chez Lidster has nothing to do with this blog. What this blog is about is just one little source of confrontation between my parents, and that lay with Reader’s Digest. Wait – I can hear you thinking – how can an innocuous little magazine be a source of marital strife? Well, to Mumsy, who was a practicing intellectual snob, every issue of RD delivered to our home was as invidious as pooping in the front parlor. “Readers’ Disgust” is what she called it in her very own disdainful manner.

 Even more offensive to her were the RD condensed books – “More challenging than Classics Comics but not as hard as the real thing,” I believe the slogan went. No it didn’t. I made that up – which the old man also got delivered. I didn’t read those, prefering the real deal with any book.

 Otherwise, in truth, I didn’t mind RD, though I had to be circumspect in my perusals thereof. Mom would have actually preferred I read Playboy because in the day it contained articles and interviews that actually promoted thought. But, the point being that if there was nothing else to pick up I’d check out the old man’s RDs.

I never confessed (much as I’ve never confessed to a lot of transgressions) that I actually didn’t mind it, especially little regular features like ‘Laughter, the Best Medicine’ and ‘Lives Like That’. But, the one I liked the most was – and this is the actual motivation for this blog – ‘It Pays to Increase Your Wordpower’. This feature would list a bunch of rarely used terms and ask you if you (multiple choice) knew what they meant.

As an aspirant scribe even back then I wanted to gain mastery of a vocabulary outside the mundane and came of the belief that if a certain word was used three times it would be mine forevermore. I gather Dickens followed a similar process. Or maybe not. I made that one up, as well.

Anyway – how am I doing wordpower-wise? If OK, I can only thank RD. Sorry, Mom.




11 responses to “It did pay me to increase my wordpower. Not a lot, but a bit

  1. RD was a subscription in our house, too… and you named my fave parts to read! My thing about words extended to a few years of writing a column in our club’s newsletter: I took a word and connected it (a la Richard Burke) to a completely different one. Obscure words were the best, followed by words that have drastically changed in meaning since the Middle Ages.

  2. We subscribed too, and like you the wordpower section was my favourite (along with the others you named which I’m too lazy to retype here – and just typing that is already longer than if I had just sucked it up and typed out the names and… oh, shut up Jazz)

  3. The grandparents always had RD in the house and I read all the sections you mentioned. Of course, I was the kind of kid who read the dictionary for fun…

  4. My parents also instilled in me disdain for RD condensed books, which they considered on a par with comics. I bootlegged RD Magazine from a neighbor’s house and enjoyed the same features you did, especially the word power and various humor pages. I’m not sure if they helped me in any way – that was not really my aim. I was simply looking for entertainment, and the written word in any form provided that better than anything else.

    • I was pretty much the same as you in my relationship with RD. I like the idea of sneaking them into the house, though. I used to do the same thing with Playboy, which was kind of a bunny of a different color.

  5. I loved reading RD (all the same bits as you) and would always try to grab it before my father got his hands on it. I devoured it. I even read a lot of the condensed books – I suspect I didn’t mind that chunks were missing, until I was older and found (some of) the full length books. All in all, it got me reading in a more adventurous way than I might have chosen had I been looking on library shelves.
    My mother also didn’t like them, but then I never saw her read a book.

    • I truly think my mother thought condensed books were literary slumming of some sort. Mind you, I would later come to appreciate the entire book rather than risk somebody’s arbitrary editorial cutting job.

  6. They also had a section where people told their (horrible, dangerous, frightening) tales of (sometimes) survival. I LOVED these. I loved them so much my father’s secretary, Lucille, would clip them for me and save them for whenever I came into the office. Mind you, I was 8 and 9. Such an odd child. When she retired, my dad actually got a subscription to RD so that I could keep reading these, morbid little thing that I was. But the condensed books were taboo in our house, as well. Literary slumming, as you put it.

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