From Our Readers

How to Learn Big Words by Watching Movies and TV

Honestly, who doesn’t get a thrill out of using a big, sophisticated word in casual conversation? Yes, this can be a challenge for those of you who don’t love carrying around a pocket thesaurus everywhere. But here is what we can suggest: watch a lot of TV and movies. We owe some early self-awareness and articulation to an unwavering love for television and movies. If you racked your own brain, you too, would be spewing out vocabulary diamonds courtesy of Cher Horowitz, the kids of Capeside and Bayside High and of course your favourite villains. Words can dazzle anyone and maybe even get you bumped up a full letter grade on that pesky English paper.  Below are a few of our personal favourites:


Josh: Be seeing you.
Ty: Yeah, I hope not sporadically.

The word sporadic is poetically defined in the classic teenage comedy Clueless. Cher Horowitz, in a valiant effort to makeover her friend Ty, tries to enhance her vocabulary with a new word each day. In the process she expands all of our minds, by stating: “Sporadic means once in a while. Try using it in a sentence today,” and that we continue to do. Every once in a while bringing this gem out into conversation will make you think of how proud she’d be.


Ariel (in song): Look at this trove, treasures untold. How many wonders can one cavern hold?

Defined in the Little Mermaid as Ariel spiritedly sings the classic song ‘Part of Your World’. A trove is a collection of objects. Our dear Ariel has a treasure-trove of mostly human objects she has collected and hid away from her father. In a slightly creepy stalker move, she adds a statue of her love interest Eric to said trove. No judgment, we all have our “trophies”.


Chandler (thinking): I’m trapped in an ATM vestibule with Jill Goodacre. Is it a vestibule? Maybe it’s an atrium. Oh, yeah, that’s the part you should be focusing on, you idiot.

This word is classically used in the Friends episode “The One with the Blackout.” During a blackout Chandler Bing gets trapped in an ATM vestibule with a famous model. Chandler is mostly tongue-tied (aside from offering the model gum) but he manages to provide us with a fabulous word for describing our lobbies, hallways and entrances. When you ask people to meet you in your vestibule, colour yourself impressive.


Gina: Well ‘Sinead O’Rebellion.’ Shock me shock me shock me with that deviant behaviour.

Introduced to us in Empire Records when Gina mockingly reacts to the fact that angst filled Debra has just shaved her head in the bathroom. Debra replies, “God that is so clever. I swear you get smarter the shorter your skirt gets.” Indeed Debra, we all just got smarter.


Sloan: You saw me? I thought you were catatonic or something.

Catatonic is one of the more sophisticated words used in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It is used to reference the state of paralysing shock, experienced by Cameron, after he realizes he is going to get found out for “borrowing” his father’s precious Ferrari. This word is useful when cleverly describing a particularly drab/boring individual, as in, “that person sends me into a catatonic state.” BAM.


Frederick: I thought we liked stripes this year.
Cruella De Vil: What kind of sycophant are you?
Frederick: Uh… what kind of sycophant would you like me to be?

Cruella De Vil, who we all know from 101 Dalmatians, delivers this gem and finding ways to be as cool as to incorporate it into a conversation, is a challenge that you should accept. It’s particularly enjoyable when the brownnoser you’re describing doesn’t understand the phrase, and/or you are truly enraged by their incessant need to please. Throw on your fur coat and your disdain.


Slater: My great-grandfather was brave too. He was a bullfighter.
Zack: That’s cool.
Jessie: Nah, bullfighting is barbaric.
Slater: No it isn’t, bullfighting’s a sport.
Jessie: It would only be a sport if the bull has a sword, too.

Thank you Jesse Spano, beloved Saved by the Bell character for showcasing how to powerfully incorporate this into daily vocabulary. If she said it once she said it a million times, up there with referring to AC Slater as a macho and chauvinistic pig, sometimes she wasn’t that sophisticated. Yes, she may have made feminist seem annoying and whiney, but she at least provided us with some delightful terms to utilize along the way.


Joey: I didn’t intend for this to happen, Dawson.
Dawson: Joey, what you intended does not provide me any solace!

Those pesky kids of Capeside, particularly the ever exhausting Dawson Leery were repeat offenders when it came to conducting mundane conversations with profoundly adult words. Yes, it’s okay to be jealous. This particular gem comes from the pivotal episode “The Longest Day,” when Pacey and Joey decide to reveal to Dawson the feelings they have for one another. I revisited this episode recently; Dawson thinks Joey’s at the library, but she’s really making out with Pacey in a boathouse! Obviously the truth is revealed and Dawson loses himself in sorrow but not before he yells out the above; that poor guy couldn’t get any solace!

Verbosely yours,

Lauren and Caitlin

You can read more from Lauren and Caitlin on their blog.

Feature image via Paramount/courtesy of the Everett Collection.

  • Betsy Hunsicker Cook

    I learned the word beheaded from Aladdin. Fact.

  • Amanda Phillips

    Aladdin also had “nom de plume” in his song where he is chased through the city of agribah.

  • Chloë Emilia Harris

    this is supercalafragalisticexpealidocious << the mighty word!!!!

  • Oriza Sativa

    I learn the phrase “don’t throw me under the bus” from Masterchef US and “I’ll keep you in the loop” from Keeping Up With the Kardashians which both phrases used frequently to show the feeling of being betrayed and sacrificed for someone else’s benefit and also to refer to the act of keeping someone informed of any updates in someone else’s life.. cool..!!

  • Caroline Jeffery

    vestibule! so many things i say to this day that come from Friends, whether i know it or not.

  • Colleen Sweeney

    I learned what sacrosanct meant watching Interiview With the Vampire. Plus many other words. I use big words on pretty much a daily basis, because I read a lot and was into historical movies as a kid.

  • Megan Frances Boyeas

    I could picture every single one of these scenes in my head. Guess that means I watch a lot of TV. Man, I must have a tremendous vocabulary!

  • Devon Nichols

    Did she really just say she learned something from the Kardashians?

  • Betty Konfetti

    Actually Chandler doesn’t offer the model gum but denies her offer after asking “is it sugarfree?”. Sorry, totally Friends-obsessed. ^^

  • نبيل الحالمي

    to post a comment

  • Christine Lazzari

    My high school boyfriend told me “sporadically” wasn’t a word when I wittily wrote it in an AOL email message (cause IM didn’t exist). I was all “it is so! I heard it in clueless!” Not a solid source when you’re trying to prove your intellectual superiority. Clearly, since it’s stayed with me for, what? 15 years?

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