What is Brobdingnagian?

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: Brobdingnagian.

I don’t typically welcome distractions when I’m writing, but I appreciated writer Marie Myng-Ok Lee’s spirited defence of the Internet in a recent article in the New York Times Opinionator section. I even blogged about it.

But when I read her piece, a word jumped out at me: Brobdingnagian. Here is how she used it:

My tools include cluttered shelves groaning with books and magazines, a bulletin board shingled with post-its and my coup de grâce: a Brobdingnagian three-ring binder whose pages are pasted with whatever research, writing bits and random ephemera I’ve decided to collect.

I remembered looking up the word Brobdingnagian many years ago and knew it was named for something or perhaps someone. I just couldn’t recall the details. A quick search on the Internet revealed the answer: The adjective means gigantic, huge, immense. And it comes from  Brobdingnag, an imaginary country of giants in Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726).

It’s a great word, albeit one that’s not particularly easy to spell!

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