I’ve read that the majority of us have a working vocabulary of about 10,000 words.  This seems pitifully small to me, give the many, many more thousands of perfectly good words that could be ours at no charge, were be but to go and harvest them from time to time.  But as that would likely involve opening a dictionary or some other word farm (word a day calendars, etc) it seems unlikely that many of us, save those who were the unlucky recipients of said calendars from Secret Santas at the office holiday party last December, will ever get to 10,001.

So I thought that I could be of help here.  I recently came upon a nice shiny new word on the second page of a mystery novel (I always appreciate when authors of popular fiction go the extra mile in terms of word selection–something that is all too often left to “literary” novelists and the know-it-all poets) written by an internet acquaintance of mine, Steven M. Thomas.  In his new book, Criminal Karma, he writes, “The hills reminded me of an oil painting I’d seen while casing a Santa Barbara museum a couple of weeks before–a plein air vision of SoCal’s vanishing rural past worth $30,000, more than the rolling expanse of portrayed acreage was worth when the painter committed it to canvas in the 1920s.”

My built-in Mac dictionary defines plein-air (and yes, Steven, there should be a hyphen) as “denoting or in the manner of a 19th century style of painting outdoors, or with a strong sense of open air, that became a central feature of French Impressionism.”

Thus, we all have something new to say at the next dinner party we attend, the next new neighbor’s house we visit, “Such a splendid plein-air painting in the solarium.”  Or, “There is such a sense of open air and light in here, that one might venture to call it plein-air!”  After the first sentence, one should punctuate with a slight nod.  After the second a little tinkling “ha ha ha” laugh might be just the thing.

Either was, we are now, indeed, up to 10,001.