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Published February 25. 2012 09:01AM

I have had a number of readers contact me to ask if we ever found our missing gecko. In my column "Carcass, Anyone?," I wrote about seeing the little critter in my bedroom, but losing him as he ran under a large piece of furniture.

Well, you can rest assured that he is gone for good. The other day, we got a new mattress for our king-sized bed. When we lifted up the old one, there - underneath the middle of the bed - was the gecko - dead as a doornail. His little legs were sticking up and he was turning to dust - or, in scientific terms - detritus.

Now, everyone knows that I love vocabulary. Former students of mine still groan about the "New Words" notebook I required them to keep. They were to identify 10 new-to-them words a week from their readings, write them down, find the definition, and make a sentence using the word.

Many of my students didn't read anything that wasn't required. So, to add insult to injury, I requested that they name the source of the new word, too. If they could cut it out from a newspaper or magazine, all the better.

I fondly recall one parent coming up to me at Parent-Teacher Conference and angrily telling me that my "stupid notebook assignment" had disrupted her family. Now, everyone was looking for words for her son's notebook. No one could just sit and enjoy their reading. They had to be on the alert for a word her son could use.

Laughingly, I chided the mother by saying, "Oh, that assignment wasn't supposed to be a family togetherness chore. Your son is supposed to be reading on his own and finding his own words." She shrugged and said, "Fat chance of that. He hates to read." When I saw the young man in class the next day, I reminded him that the assignment was HIS. He blushed a little and said, "Well, at least I got my parents and sister to read a little, too."

But, I digress. Words like "detritus" aren't well known by most people. The fact that "detritus" means a non-living organic material, such as bodies or fragments of bodies of dead organisms, would not be on the tip of the tongue. However, once learned and used in a sentence, the word "detritus" can become part of one's useful vocabulary.

As a matter of fact, I promise the readers of this column that they will not forget what "detritus" means. All you have to do is use it a few times in your daily talking or writing and it will be yours forever. Now all you have to do is figure out how to insert bodies of dead organisms into the conversation.

We enjoy watching Bill O'Reilly each evening on the Fox News Channel. A former teacher, Bill never fails to come up with an interesting word at the end of his broadcast. He never gives the definition. He uses the word in a sentence and challenges the viewers to go to the dictionary and find out what it means.

I have been meaning to write to Bill O'Reilly and tell him how much this former English teacher enjoys his ventures into the wonderful world of vocabulary. I think I will tell him that his use of "recondite" words makes me smile. I know that there is a "plethora" of good examples.

No, I won't give you the meanings. Go and look them up!


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