A recent interview heard on ABC radio highlighted something that was also becoming evident during rehearsals and workshops with young actors. The language scholar being interviewed said that vocabulary size in the general community is shrinking at a significant rate. (And she had the figures to prove it.)

This probably has nothing to do with the fact that these days four letter expletives can be inserted at random in any conversation to provide a huge number of different meanings with one word. In fact this language specialist believed it had more to do with -
the fact that the wide availability of television, the internet and video games means people spend more time watching a screen thatn they do reading
the fact that many written mediums such as newspapers, magazines and the internet which have to compete with the abbreviated impact driven way screen communications are delivered have also reduced the vocabulary they use to similarly effect a short, punchy, attention seeking style which is the complete opposite of the sentence you have just read.

Often character descriptions in a script are queried because actors are unsure of the exact meaning of the word used. Script writes sometimes like to flaunt their skills and knowkedge. In a script this week "oleaginous" sent me rushing for the dictionary. And in a Rehearsal Room workshop the same week "phlegmatic" generated lengthy discussion - for we often use words even though we are a little vague about their exact meaning.

In the interest of broadening our knowledge of human behaviour and the ways it can be described here is the beginning of a list of words which may be of use to the actor. Contribute your discoveries so that we can all expand our powers of character analysis and the means of communicating these concepts. (Email your thoughts to contact@rehearsalroom.com)


Contributed by various actors, some of the following have been sourced from the Oxford Dictionary:

analytical adj. employing the method of analysis; (of language) using separate words instead of inflections. analytically adv.
charismatic adj. magnetic, charming - Oxford D suggests the capacity to inspire followers with devotion and enthusiasm.
enigmatic adj. from enigma - a riddle; puzzling person or thing.) Mysterious, unknowable, inscrutable, unfathomable. enigmatically adv.
gregarious adj. Living in flocks or communities; fond of company; of flocks or crowds.
oleaginous adj. Having properties of or producing oil; oily, fatty, greasy. oleaginously adv.
phlegmatic adj. Derived from 'phlegm' meaning coolness, sluggishness, apathy (supposed to result from predominance of phlegm in the constitution) phlegmatically adv
pierrot noun. (fem. pierrette) French pantomime character with whitened face and loose white dress; itinerant entertainer (espec. member of troupe) similarly dressed.
sedulous adj. (SEJ-uh-luhs) Diligent in application or pursuit; steadily industrious; characterized by or accomplished with care & perseverance. "He did not attain this distinction by accident but by sedulous study."
stringent adj. Rigorous, strict, binding, requiring exact performance. Suggesting a high level of performance is expected. stringently adv.
turgid adj. swollen, distended, puffed out. (of language) Sometimes used in reference to flooded rivers - so has connotations of murky, dirty, rough; or in relation to language over-inflated, excessively dark, murky or turbulent. turgidly adv.

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