An ad promoting a trip to Glacier National Park

While our 16-year-old brushed up for her French exam — by chatting with a tennis-playing Frenchman who attends Mercer University — I sipped on a white mocha and worked on my own vocabulary.

The coffee shop walls held decorative signs with definitions of words related to food and drink — such as “gourmet.”

The stated definition of “one with a passion for food or drink” was familiar, but a given synonym was not: gastronomer.

While the word derivation is clear, a gastronomer sounded more akin to a glutton than a gourmet to me. So I looked it up when I got home.

The dictionary revealed: “gas·tron·o·mer (g-strn-mr) n. A connoisseur of good food and drink” — the same as a gourmet.

Writers like having an ever-deepening well of words from which to draw. But, for me, the word gastronomer will have limited use unless I become a food critic.

And as one who grew up on fish sticks and pinto beans, that is unlikely. While I enjoy fine dining — such as multi-course meals in Paris and elsewhere — my proclivity for turnip greens and cornbread remains strong.

So, while the term gastronomer is not self-descriptive, at least it will be available should I need it to define another.

Better communication results from learning and using new words — whether of one’s native language or another. However, life’s bigger challenge is living out in meaningful ways the words we already know — like love, joy, peace, patience and kindness.

Some words we can define. Others define us.

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